City plans to revitalize with restraint

March 30, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer

For years, the symbols of Baltimore's renaissance were costly, high-profile projects -- the sparkling Harborplace, National Aquarium, Columbus Center and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

This year, with a lot less money available, the city is taking a back-to-basics approach to transforming the downtown.

The latest version of an ambitious plan to extend the downtown revitalization calls for simple refurbishment over big-ticket flourishes. The main items range from restoring cracked plazas to promoting minority-owned businesses, improving transportation and encouraging the opening of a children's museum.

"There is a lot of momentum still going on in our downtown," said city Planning Director Charles C. Graves III, who unveiled the updated long-range plan yesterday. "We try to make these goals realistic but also aggressive."

A 14-member committee chaired by Walter Sondheim, the civic leader who was a catalyst for Baltimore's renaissance, drafted the strategy to improve downtown. It represents the third year of the 20-year blueprint, "The Renaissance Continues," which is designed to ensure that the city remains "the economic, cultural and social heart of the region."

City planners, business executives and housing officials will focus on the following projects:

* Luring more tourists and Baltimoreans downtown through ad campaigns, new events and plans for a visitors center.

* Surveying downtown businesses and encouraging them to stay.

* Finishing a study on a high school that would specialize in life sciences and opening the Belts Wharf Marine Center.

* Studying downtown transportation and making recommendations to create more pedestrian zones, to better link bus routes with light rail and the subway system, and possibly to revive the downtown shuttle.

Proposed bricks-and-mortar improvements include $2 million to refurbish downtown plazas and promenades, $12.8 million to renovate the aquarium's main tank, $32.5 million to expand and restore police headquarters and $2.1 million to repair City Hall's roof.

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