Schmoke sees Baltimore as college town Mayor plans to market Charles Street area for 100,000 students

January 30, 1998|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Speaking to the College Democrats of the Johns Hopkins University yesterday evening, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke discussed the city's efforts to make the North Charles Street area and Baltimore in general more of a "big-league college town."

"There is a commitment now," Schmoke told the group of 40 students in a classroom on the Homewood campus in North Baltimore. "I've met with the area's college presidents to discuss changes we need to market Baltimore as a college town."

The mayor noted that up to 100,000 college students are in the Baltimore area during the academic year. He said that, along with the Hard Rock Cafe, students could soon enjoy a Planet Hollywood and a Barnes & Noble Booksellers by the Inner Harbor.

One step, suggested by a student, is to offer city shuttle bus service from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to college campuses at the beginning and end of college semesters. "Good idea," said Schmoke.

When students asked him if zoning changes could be made to allow more retail outlets in residential areas near campus, Schmoke encouraged them to participate in the Greater Homewood Renaissance planning process for North Baltimore.

He also told them of plans for nearby neighborhoods, such as the city's recent purchase of an empty drugstore in Remington to house the Police Department's tactical unit of 220 officers -- a presence he said would help stabilize the neighborhood.

The mayor praised volunteer and mentoring programs that take Hopkins students into the nearby neighborhoods of Greenmount and Waverly, where, he said, the question is what to do with land cleared by the planned demolition of Memorial Stadium.

"It's clear the community does not want a strip shopping center," said Schmoke, adding that demolition probably will occur next year.

Schmoke also outlined his position on the "medicalization" of drug policy, telling students he believes the drug problem in the United States should be viewed as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice matter.

He spoke fondly of his friend, President Clinton, who, he said, "performed in an excellent fashion" during his State of the Union address Tuesday.

As a former district attorney, Schmoke criticized independent counsel Kenneth Starr's far-reaching Whitewater inquiry. "If I had run a grand jury investigation the way Ken Starr has, a federal judge would have had my head," said Schmoke.

When Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Goucher College last week, he said, they did not discuss the matter. Rather, Schmoke said, "We talked about my impending empty-nest status," because his daughter is college-bound next year.

At least one student left impressed. "Compared to other politicians I've seen, he's remarkably honest," said Charlie Lord, 18, a freshman interested in urban policy. "He doesn't try to sugarcoat problems."

Pub Date: 1/30/98

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