Mini-canal plan among bond issues Varied proposals go to voters in '94

November 12, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

Baltimore's plan to turn Market Place into a mini-canal, complete with barges and schooners doubling as kiosks and outdoor cafes, could start to be implemented by mid-1995 with city funding assistance -- if voters approve a bond issue on the November 1994 ballot.

Other projects voters that will be asked to approve include: backstage expansion at the Lyric Opera House; arts-related initiatives along Howard Street; renovation and expansion of Maryland General Hospital's emergency room; and a pedestrian bridge to link Inner Harbor Piers 3 and 4, the proposed site of a $30 million sports museum inside the Power Plant.

Baltimore's Planning Commission approved yesterday the Schmoke administration's 1994 loan authorization program, under which voters will be asked to let the city sell up to $30 million in general obligation bonds to finance a wide range of civic projects.

In all, agencies requested $131 million for projects, and the list was compiled from those requests, said Israel Patoka, manager of the planning department's capital improvement program management division.

If the 1994 loan requests are approved by a majority of voters, money will be available starting July 1, 1995, Mr. Patoka said.

In some cases, city funds must be matched by state or private funds before the projects can begin, he said.

Proposed bond issues include:

* Economic development: $6.15 million to support downtown development initiatives and help the city retain and attract businesses. The breakdown includes $1.08 million for the bridge between Piers 3 and 4; $250,000 for repairs to the downtown infrastructure; and $1 million to enhance Market Place between Pratt Street and the Brokerage, the proposed site of a $20 million Children's Museum and Center. City officials are exploring plans to create a Venetian-style canal with shops, cafes and maritime exhibits designed to draw pedestrians from the Inner Harbor to the Brokerage and vice versa.

Also, $1.57 million for improvements in the Howard Street corridor, including possible property acquisition or renovation work at several vacant theaters that city officials want to reopen to help transform Howard Street into an "avenue of the arts."

And $2.25 million to support specific businesses, particularly in biotechnology and "wet labs."

* Community development: $7 million, consisting of $2.8 million for neighborhoods, $450,000 for commercial areas, $1 million to continue the HOME loan program, $1.5 million for Sandtown-Winchester and $1.25 million for housing revitalization.

* Education: $8 million for projects ranging from continuing asbestos removal to modernization and renovation at Thomas Jefferson, Ashburton, Cross Country, Glenmount, Hamilton and Leith Walk elementary schools. * Baltimore Zoo: $2.5 million, consisting of $1.25 million each for exhibits called the Earth Conservation Center and International Valley.

* Health: $3 million to renovate and expand the Eastern Health District Building near Caroline and Monument streets.

* Cultural: $750,000 for improvements to the 1974 building of the Walters Art Gallery and $600,000 for backstage expansion at the Lyric Opera House. The city portion is providing one fourth of total cost of each project, with other funds coming from state and private sources.

* Maryland General: $1 million to improve the emergency room. The hospital has agreed to pay the debt service on the loans. The city would guarantee the bonds.

* Parks: $1 million for renovations to Patterson Park, including new landscaping, removal of certain roads and repairs to the boat lake and its filtration system.

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