Groups propose to develop cultural tourist attraction Supporters study sites to promote city heritage

November 15, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's tourism industry and historic communities are joining forces in hopes of creating something like New Orleans' French Quarter in the city that will coax Inner Harbor-bound tourists to visit the area's other attractions.

The Planning Commission recommended approval yesterday of the first step of the plan to combine Baltimore's cultural, economic and architectural history in an area that persuades tourists to stay longer and spend more.

Tourism and historic community leaders are going after a share of millions of dollars newly earmarked by the state to turn historic and recreational areas into strong tourist attractions, an idea called Heritage Tourism.

"We want people to go out and see the rest of Baltimore," said Kathleen Gilbert Kotarba, executive director of the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, the group spearheading the effort.

The tourism leaders and historic communities hope that identifying an area with the right elements will bolster Baltimore's estimated $1 billion tourism industry.

Because the plan is in the early stages, no specific area in the city has been identified.

The Planning Commission recommended that City Council approve Baltimore becoming a recognized heritage area. If council does so, the designation will allow planners to submit an application that specifies the heritage area boundaries to the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, the state agency created to manage the program.

If the heritage authority approves the application, it will provide a matching grant to pay for a detailed management plan that will mark the boundaries of a historical and cultural tourist area like the French Quarter or Beacon Hill in Boston.

That plan, if approved, will allow an area in the city to get state matching grants, tax breaks, incentives and revenue bonds for economic development, including rehabilitating neighborhoods and capital improvement projects.

"The unofficial theme of this whole effort is 'Beyond the Inner Harbor,' " said Bill Pencek, deputy director of the Maryland Historical Trust. "If the community decides what we need are better transportation programs to generate more tourist-oriented LTC business, or more parking garages or more hotels or improved parks, then that's what will happen."

A public hearing, sponsored by the commission, will be held at 1: 30 p.m. today at 417 E. Fayette St., third floor, to discuss the plan.

Pub Date: 11/15/96

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