City rebuked over juvenile center plans

January 30, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Staff Writer

Angered by a proposal to build a $35 million juvenile justice center on Cold Spring Lane community, leaders from area neighborhoods rebuked Baltimore officials at a forum yesterday for what they said was a plan that excluded their input.

"The process has failed us. Don't let it fail us any longer," Diane Frederick, community manager for the Coldspring Community Association, said during the forum at Children's Hospital. "Talk to us early on. We can be helpful. We can make a difference."

The two-hour forum, organized Wednesday by the Coldspring Community Association and Children's Hospital, was the first meeting between city and community leaders since news accounts last week reported the city's desire to build the center on the south side of Cold Spring Lane, west of the Jones Falls Expressway. About 70 people attended the forum.

City officials said that no final decisions about locating the center have been made and that the Cold Spring Lane site was one of several under consideration. They added that if the center is built, it will not look like a prison.

"No razor ribbons. No guard towers. No bars," said Judge David B. Mitchell, who is in charge of juvenile cases for the city Circuit Court.

"This is the exact structure we're going to construct," he said, showing a picture of a juvenile justice center in Indianapolis.

The center would house caseworkers, court officials, courtrooms and a 144-bed juvenile detention facility.

The center is one of three proposed uses for the site. The police department wants to move its Northern District station there, and the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors wants to build an office complex there.

About 6 acres are available for construction, said Charles C. Graves, director of the city's Department of Planning.

The real estate group's plans were not mentioned last week when possible uses for the acreage was first mentioned publicly.

The juvenile justice center would take up to 4 acres, and the police station and office complex each would use three.

Before the city decides about the police station or juvenile justice center, it must wait for the Board of Realtors to decide whether it wants to build on site. The city entered a contract with the board Nov. 15. The board has six months to decide.

"If the Board of Realtors expresses interest that this is their No. 1 site, we want to make that happen," Mr. Graves told the group.

If the office complex is built, Mr. Graves said "it would be extremely tight" to try to squeeze the justice center building on the site, too.

Mr. Graves said the planning department was beginning a study of the site to determine if the land can be used for development. He said the study could take eight weeks.

While community leaders argued that what they most want is to be involved in the decision-making, Alex J. Krammer, president of the Coldspring Community Association, said, "I am not in support of [the center] at this time."

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