About 40 people who said they were upset by reports of a plan to tear down the vacant Eastern High School property and build a strip shopping center gathered yesterday at the site across from Memorial Stadium to protest the idea.
"That's not good," said Corey Jones, co-chairman of the Better Waverly Community Association. "No shopping center, no fast food places."
The major tenant for the new center would be a Valu Foods supermarket.
Bill Wilson, a spokesman for the protesters, said the report in yesterday's Sun concerning the school -- closed since 1986 -- caught neighborhood residents by surprise. He said organizations decided to act quickly.
Mr. Wilson said residents of Waverly, Better Waverly, Greater Homewood, Charles Village and other neighborhoods surrounding the 55-year-old school on 33rd Street want to see the site used for educational, housing or cultural purposes.
Eleanor Montgomery, the other chair of the Better Waverly group, said there was no need for more retail outlets in the area.
Ms. Montgomery said the nearby Greenmount Avenue Shopping Center had vacant store fronts and there were several other groceries in the community.
Klein Enterprises, which built the Fort Avenue Shopping Center in South Baltimore, apparently would be the developer of the shopping center on the Eastern site, but the company has declined to discuss the matter.
The city's Department of Planning has completed a draft request for proposals to redevelop the Eastern High property. It says the city would prefer preservation of the 202,000-square-foot facility.
Tracy Durkin, a spokeswoman for the protesters, said they were concerned that the city was giving potential developers only 30 days to come up with proposals.
"We do not feel that is an adequate time to respond," she said.
Mr. Wilson agreed, saying it would take at least 60 days for interested parties to study the site, come up with a specific proposal and then submit their plans to the Baltimore Development Corp.
He said residents would like to see the Johns Hopkins University formally propose an idea that has been tossed around for several years -- using the Eastern school site for an expansion of the college's campus.
Councilman Martin O'Malley said he and the other two 3rd District representatives, Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham and Martin E. "Mike" Curran, also were opposed to using the Eastern site for a new shopping center and would vote against such a proposal.
"We also would prefer that the building be saved, but we have to be realistic," said Mr. O'Malley, who arrived at the brief gathering shortly after the TV news crews left and the protesters broke up.
The Baltimore Development Corp. has declined to discuss the shopping center proposal, which reportedly includes the grocery, a bank, pharmacy, fast-food restaurant and drug store.
The BDC will formally request proposals Sunday, according to a spokesman.