Cold Spring site eyed for police, juvenile complex

January 26, 1994|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

A city-owned parcel of land on Cold Spring Lane near the Jones Falls Expressway is being considered as the site for a new Northern District police station and a combined courthouse and youth detention center that would streamline Baltimore's juvenile justice system, government officials said.

No decision has been made on where the two projects will be built, but an official in the state Department of Juvenile Services and the judge who oversees the juvenile docket in Baltimore Circuit Court say the Cold Spring Lane site would be a good choice for the juvenile justice center.

"I would think that site would work very well for us," said Stacey Nicholson, director of capital planning for the state Department of Juvenile Services.

The 27-acre site under consideration is on the south side of Cold Spring Lane, west of the expressway and across Cold Spring Lane from the Cylburn Arboretum and a residential development known as Coldspring Newtown. It is now the site of a city landfill.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke mentioned during a breakfast Monday with city business leaders the possibility that the site could become home to the juvenile center and to a police station to replace the current one in Hampden.

The mayor's spokesman, Clint Coleman, said later, "One of the possibilities that intrigues the mayor is placing the Northern District police station and the juvenile justice center on the same site."

Mr. Coleman said no decision has been made on the site for the two buildings, in part because soil and environmental testing at the Cold Spring Lane property have not been completed.

Ms. Nicholson of Juvenile Services said a decision on a location for the juvenile justice center should be reached by early next week, when officials are to travel to Annapolis to ask legislators for $1.78 million to complete the design work for the $35 million project.

"It sure would be helpful to have [a site] by Feb. 1," she said. "We're working closely with the city toward finalizing a site, but I don't hold any expectations anymore."

Judge David B. Mitchell, who is in charge of juvenile cases for the city Circuit Court, said he favors the Cold Spring location because it is near the expressway and can be reached easily by bus, light rail or subway.

The commander of the Northern District, Maj. Margaret Patten, said the site also is a good one for a police station and added, "I think we'd be accepted by the community."

Ms. Nicholson and Judge Mitchell said the debate over a site has dragged on since last summer. Mr. Coleman called it "conceivable" that a site would be selected in time for a Feb. 1 hearing with the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee.

Jacqueline Lampell, a spokeswoman for Juvenile Services, said she doubted it would be possible to make a decision that quickly because community groups would have to be briefed first.

Ms. Lampell said yesterday afternoon that the Cold Spring Lane site is one of "three or four sites we are seriously considering" and that no site should be considered a front-runner. The spokeswoman said she would not identify the other sites because no notice has been given to the communities that would be affected.

Ms. Lampell and Judge Mitchell said that about 15 possible sites for the juvenile facility have been considered at one time or another.

Alex Kramer, president of the Coldspring Community Association, said his group had not heard of a proposal to place the criminal justice complex near his neighborhood.

He said the association would be more likely to welcome the police sta

tion than the juvenile facility.

"Coldspring supports the Police Department, and the Police Department supports Coldspring," he said, but he added that the community association needs more information before it takes a position on the police station or the juvenile facility.

Audrey Sawyer, president of the Cylburn Arboretum Association, learned about the proposal from a reporter. "Off the top of my head, I can't really see where it would do a whole lot of damage, but it's kind of hard to say until I know more about it," she said.

Her organization, a volunteer group that helps preserve the arboretum, has sued the city for approving an additional phase of the Coldspring Newtown housing development along the border of the nature park.

Edwin Goodlander, a past president of the Roland Park Civic League, said he expects more negative reaction than positive in that community.

He noted that when police officials proposed moving the Northern District station to a location on Falls Road, residents were most concerned about whether prisoners would be detained at a station.

Of the prospect of a juvenile detention facility just across the expressway, Mr. Goodlander said, "As a homeowner, obviously I would be concerned, because the perception is that type of facility has an impact on a community."

Noting that he was the state's commissioner for corrections from 1979 to 1981, he added, "I'm not so certain that the perception has always proven correct."

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