Wabash Ave. site emerges as detention center choice

March 02, 1994|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

Articles in The Sun and The Evening Sun yesterday incorrectly reported the owner of a site planned for a Juvenile Justice Center on Wabash Avenue. The site is owned by the Mass Transit Administration.

The Sun regrets the errors.

A plan to build a $35 million courthouse and youth detention center on city-owned land off Cold Spring Lane has been scrapped in favor of a new site on Wabash Avenue near the Reisterstown Road Plaza Metro station.

About a month ago, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke ignited a controversy when he announced that the Cold Spring Lane site was being considered for the juvenile justice center and the new Northern District police station.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

During a meeting Jan. 29, area residents denounced a proposal to build the juvenile justice center on the south side of Cold Spring Lane, west of the Jones Falls Expressway.

State and city officials yesterday said a new plan calls for building the juvenile justice center on a 7-acre site owned by the Maryland Transportation Authority.

The facility would be in the 5900 block of Wabash Ave. near the Borgerding District Court Building.

Maryland Department of Juvenile Services officials said the Wabash Avenue site topped the list of locations considered by officials who judged it on accessibility, size, cost and environmental considerations.

"This is the site that best meets our needs," Carol P. Hyman, a Juvenile Services spokeswoman, said yesterday.

"We've looked at more than 20 sites and we rated all of them," Ms. Hyman said. "This is the one that we kept coming back to."

State and city officials are scheduled to meet with community and business associations at 7 tonight at Northwestern High School, 6900 Park Heights Ave.

Yesterday, Helena S. Hicks, president of the Grove Park Improvement Association, sharply criticized the plan.

She expressed concerns about a possible environmental hazard the nearby Powder Mill Stream and the threat to neighborhood safety posed by escapees from the juvenile center.

"That's just raised the hackles on everybody's backs," she said of possible escapes from the detention facility.

Ms. Hicks said her neighborhood has a long history of being safe.

"Grove Park is one of the few communities in the city that has remained safe for the 32 years I've been here," she said. "We're middle-aged. We don't have any interest in teen-agers. We've raised all our kids."

She said residents and businesses would oppose the plan.

But Richard Berman, president of the Reisterstown Road Merchants Coalition, said he believes many people have overreacted to the prospect of the center, which he said is desperately needed.

Mr. Berman said his organization has not discussed the matter, but he believes the planned location, near a wooded area, provides enough buffer space to shield the community from harm.

"I think it's going to come," he said of the center. "I think residential communities not far from here are not very happy about it, but it isn't going to be right on top of the neighborhoods."

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

Juveniles would be held at the center only to await hearings.

Officials say the center would ease a shortage of jail space for juveniles and shorten the time between arrest and court hearings.

Last night, Sam Ringgold, a spokesman for the city Police Department, was unable to say where the new Northern District station would be built.

"I don't know if they've settled on a site," he said. "The city real estate division has been handling it. The last time I recall it being discussed, there were still a couple of sites being considered."

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