City has 10 sites in mind for arena Properties being eyed from harbor to 33rd St.

January 30, 1998|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Moving ahead with its ambitious plans to build a 20,000-seat arena in Baltimore, the city has chosen 10 potential locations from the Inner Harbor to Memorial Stadium to be the home of the proposed facility.

Although funding for the proposed $200 million facility is far from in place, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has approved hiring a consultant to study the sites. He will then decide which one would be best, said Charles C. Graves III, director of the planning department.

For city leaders, four of the 10 sites seem to be the front-runners: The existing site of the aging and undersized Baltimore Arena, bounded by Liberty Avenue and Baltimore, Lombard and Howard streets.

Memorial Stadium.

Inner Harbor East, next to the proposed Wyndham Hotel, from Caroline Street and then west to the harbor. The parcel is also known as the old AlliedSignal site.

Russell and Hamburg streets, where Staples Inc. is located.

"These are the four that really surfaced to be the leading candidates," Graves said.

But Graves said that the city is not ruling out these other sites: Russell and Warner streets, south of the Ravens stadium.

Port Covington, next to Sun Park.

Calvert and Centre streets, where The Baltimore Sun building is located.

Guilford Avenue and Saratoga Street.

A Mount Royal parcel, roughly bounded by Howard Street, Maryland and Mount Royal avenues, that includes a post office and a parking lot.

The State Center site, bounded by Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, McCulloh, Preston and Eutaw streets.

The city controls two of the sites -- Memorial Stadium and the existing arena -- but officials say they have not talked to property owners who control the others.

They say construction could start in about five years if financing could be resolved.

"This is probably the first step of about 10 that need to happen before the arena can be built," Graves said.

Schmoke has said that the 35-year-old, 11,200-seat Baltimore Arena needs to be replaced in part because it is too small to attract a professional basketball or hockey team. The arena is home to family shows, sporting events and concerts.

City leaders say they want a site that will be close to shops and restaurants in the hopes that arena patrons will spend money in the city and spur more economic development.

Also under consideration are access to public transportation and major traffic arteries and the arena's impact on nearby neighborhoods.

At many locations, businesses would have to be relocated, and parking would not be adequate.

If the city builds on the current site, the preferred option for city planners, Baltimore would be without an arena for about two years while the existing building is demolished and the replacement is built.

But, they say, once built, the arena would be a needed anchor for the long-troubled Howard Street corridor, which is undergoing redevelopment. City leaders said that alone might be worth the two years without an arena.

Memorial Stadium, another preferred site, is a good place, city leaders said, because the neighborhood is used to crowds. City leaders, however, worry that residents might not be want late-night crowds on any day of the week.

Also, the city has slated demolition of the stadium and has proposed building houses.

The mayor said last month that one of his favorite sites is the former AlliedSignal building at Inner Harbor East because it is close to shops and restaurants in nearby Fells Point and Little Italy.

But accessibility is limited because no major road is nearby. Neighbors might oppose the arena because of traffic. Several communities are fighting the proposed 41-story Wyndham Hotel because of traffic concerns.

"It's troublesome that the city would consider placing a structure that would potentially have such a large impact on an area of town that is truly historic in nature," said Jennifer Etheridge, president of the Fells Point Homeowners Association.

"It looks like the mayor is doing his best to run those of us who want to live in Fells Point out of here," she said.

The other location that city leaders have highlighted is the Russell and Hamburg streets site. It is close to the football and baseball stadiums but far away from restaurants and shops.

That site is also being eyed by the Maryland Stadium Authority as a possible location for a parking lot.

Pub Date: 1/30/98

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