City reviews plans to recycle Eastern High

February 03, 1992|By Edward Gunts

Four months after a consultant recommended that Eastern High School be torn down to help create a 55-acre renewal area around Memorial Stadium, the Schmoke administration is considering proposals to recycle it instead.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said last week that more than one prospective developer has contacted the city in recent months to discuss recycling the 33rd Street landmark, which was closed six years ago and which contains more than 200,000 square feet of space.

Although he declined to say who has expressed interest, the mayor said ideas so far have ranged from a mixed-use complex to research facilities. He said the city has no firm proposals and remains open to serious offers.

"People keep coming in," he said. "We tell them if you have a proposal and a way of financing it, we'll be happy to discuss it."

One interested party is the Johns Hopkins University, which is outgrowing its Homewood campus less than a mile east of the high school.

Robert Schuerholz, executive director for facilities management at Hopkins, said he toured the five-level building more than a year ago and plans to do so again soon.

Mr. Schuerholz said the university always has a general interest in possible space. "It's a lovely building, and it would be great if we could save it," he said.

But Hopkins is just beginning to explore its options, he added. "It's very, very preliminary at this stage."

The 1930s-era high school is located almost halfway between Hopkins' Homewood campus and the large Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions complex on Wolfe Street.

K. S. Sweet Associates of Radnor, Pa., the consultant that prepared a plan for the Memorial Stadium site, recommended in September that both the stadium and the high school be razed to make way for development, including housing, offices and landscaped open spaces. But the consultants said the pace of )) construction would depend how soon potential occupants emerged.

Sweet's recommendation to raze the high school has drawn criticism from community representatives to the mayor's Memorial Stadium Task Force, which has asked the city to restudy the issue.

Sandra Sparks, executive director of the Greater Homewood Community Corp. and a task force member, said she believed that the neighborhoods around the high school would be happy to see the school preserved.

"We'd very much like to see it, because it's a handsome old building," she said. In addition, "it costs money to tear it down. It would save the city money if it stayed up. From the city's standpoint, it would be the best thing for the city to do."

Ms. Sparks said she was particularly supportive of the idea that Hopkins use the Eastern High site as a place to channel growth, because that would reduce pressure to add buildings to the Homewood campus.

"I would love to see Hopkins take it," she said. "It would be fantastic because it would move the [Memorial Stadium] site along and it would be an anchor of the rest of the development. It would give an element of certainty to what's happening there."

David Miller, an architect and resident of Montpelier Street in Better Waverly, said, "The neighborhood wasn't convinced the study was correct. We're pleased that they are making public their decision to consider preserving the school."

The future of the stadium and high school, which straddle East 33rd Street and occupy the largest single tract of non-parkland remaining in a residential section of the city, is a concern among residents of Northeast Baltimore, whose home values and businesses could be profoundly affected.

The stadium task force was put together by Mayor Schmoke and the Maryland Stadium Authority in 1988 to help determine the future of the 37-year-old stadium now that the Orioles baseball team will be playing in the new stadium at Camden Yards starting this spring.

It concluded that no practical permanent use could be found for the 33rd Street stadium but that it should be allowed to stay up for use as a temporary football stadium in case the National Football League awards Baltimore one of two expansion teams.

NFL officials are expected to announce their decision later this year.

If Baltimore is selected, city and state officials say, Memorial Stadium would serve as a temporary home to the expansion team while a new stadium is built in Camden Yards.

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