Smart Growth that revives cities, suburbs would boost state and governor's future

December 28, 1997|By Barry Rascovar

WHEN IT comes to New Year's resolutions, Parris Glendening has a chance to make good on a monumental commitment.

Smart Growth.

The governor embraced this concept and then succeeded in selling a modified version to the General Assembly last spring. He couched it in terms of curbing population sprawl.

Focal points

But what Smart Growth really means is reviving our cities and towns and villages and returning them to their former roles as focal points of our daily lives.

Mr. Glendening is in a wonderful position to help make that happen. Right now, Maryland is awash in surplus cash. Over the next few years, there could be over half a billion dollars freed up for a variety of purposes. But what if Mr. Glendening committed himself to concentrating most of this money on Smart Growth?

It could redefine how we view our neighborhoods and our region. It could affect business decisions on locating new offices. It could change the mind-set of families looking for new homes.

Take, for instance, what would happen if the governor focused on saving the greater Pimlico area.

That would mean some unconventional steps, such as pouring millions of dollars into Pimlico Race Course to create a modernized ''backstretch'' stable area that horse owners and trainers would rush to use year-round.

Such a move would go a long way toward ensuring the survival of that race track while protecting Maryland's horse farms in the process. It would free up money track owners could use for major customer improvements. Together with an assist from the state's economic development and tourism agencies, this could save Pimlico Race Course.

That, in turn, would bolster the stability of the neighboring Mount Washington community so important to preserving an upper-middle class in the city.

It also would support the city's growing Orthodox Jewish community to the west and north of the track -- in both the city and in adjoining Baltimore County. And it would encourage further expansion of the Sinai Hospital complex to the east, which could play an increasingly important role in making Northwest Baltimore and its suburban components a more stable and viable area.

But Smart Growth must mean doing much more in Pimlico. Commercial redevelopment along Park Heights Avenue and Reisterstown Road must be part of any Smart Growth solution.

So should a major state-financed push to root out crime and drug-related violence in an area A Smart Growth governor would shift millions into the state transportation fund to build an extended east-west light-rail line from White Marsh through the city and west to Columbia.

saturated with these problems. A home-ownership and housing renewal effort along these two main thoroughfares could boost the struggling Pikesville community in Baltimore County.

Another key component of any Smart Growth plan is a first-rate transportation system that encourages people to work, live, shop and play in existing cities and inner suburbs.

Thus, Mr. Glendening should focus like a laser on giving the Baltimore region a comprehensive and effective mass transit network. This would mean setting money aside next month to double-track the entire Central Light Rail Line and to expand existing parking lots.

A Smart Growth governor would shift millions into the state transportation fund to build an extended east-west light-rail line from White Marsh through the city and west to Columbia. The Baltimore region should have what the inner-Washington region already has -- a true mass-transit alternative to the automobile.

Smart Growth would benefit the city and the counties. They have mutual problems.

Pick any major road that starts in the city and radiates into the county -- York Road, Belair Road, Harford Road, Pulaski Highway, Frederick Road, Windsor Mill Road, Edmondson Avenue, Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, for instance. You'll find the same problems -- drugs, crime, trash, low school performance, deteriorating commercial strips, run-down housing -- leap-frogging across political boundary lines into neighboring communities.

Liberty Road corridor

Liberty Heights Avenue/Liberty Road is typical. The same woes that afflict communities at its southern end near Mondawmin are evident as it crosses into Baltimore County near Lochearn. The deterioration can even be seen as the road flows into Carroll County.

This is where Smart Growth should be targeted. If neighborhoods and communities along city-inner suburban roads are turned around, sprawl pressures lessen. It is the type of New Year's resolution that only a governor committed to Smart Growth in its truest sense could make.

Barry Rascovar is deputy editorial-page editor of The Sun.

Pub Date: 12/28/97

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