Center for blood donations opposed Highlandtown merchants fear facility will draw addicts seeking money

November 18, 1996|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

A proposal to open a new business in Baltimore's Highlandtown neighborhood, where many stores have closed in recent years, should have made area merchants happy. But in this commercial district east of downtown, it caused an outcry.

The dispute revolves around whether a blood-donor center should be allowed to open in a vacant one-story building in the 3800 block of Eastern Ave. Merchants fear the center will pay its donors to give blood, attracting drug addicts to the area.

Maryland Biological Services, Inc. last week filed a permit application with the city Department of Housing and Community Development, seeking permission to open the donor center in a former card shop. The company is leasing the space from Broadway Realty Corp.

It was not clear this week whether Maryland Biological pays donors. Attempts to reach Andrew Berish, who is listed on incorporation records as the company's registered agent, were unsuccessful. A manager at the company's office on Belair Road would not answer questions.

Fears of losing business

Approval from the city housing authority has been delayed while officials investigate complaints made by Highlandtown merchants such as Ali Ehteshami, who has owned a grocery store at 3921 Eastern Ave. for nine years.

"That kind of business attracts the wrong kind of people -- people who come to donate just for the money," said Ehteshami, 55, owner of Stella Foods Co. "I don't want them standing in line outside my store, waiting to donate blood. They'll scare my customers off."

Alvin Caplan, chairman and chief executive officer of Broadway Realty Corp., said the merchants' fears are unfounded.

"This is a very reputable company," he said. "It is nationally known and has great financial backing."

Blood for research

Maryland Biological is licensed with the state Licensing and Certification Administration, a division of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, to draw blood for research purposes.

"The blood they draw would not be used for reuse in humans," said Michael J. Wadja, a program administrator for laboratory licensure with the state health department. "It's my understanding that the blood they collect is used in diagnostic tests kits."

The housing authority expects to reach a decision in about a week, said Dot Colvin, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Pub Date: 11/18/96

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