Beyond Memorial Stadium Demolition: With the old ballpark to be razed by 2001, redevelopment becomes issue.

March 20, 1998

IT IS HIGHLY appropriate that with the Ravens stadium nearing completion downtown, Gov. Parris N. Glendening has pledged $10 million to demolish Memorial Stadium. His promise ends uncertainty about the fate of the 44-year-old ballpark. If no hitches develop, the North Baltimore landmark should come down by 2001.

But what next?

Nearly a decade ago, city planners, after protracted consultations with surrounding neighborhoods, were set to advertise redevelopment opportunities worldwide. That's how unique they thought the 56-acre stadium site along 33rd Street was.

Recession intervened, though, and the 26 acres around the old Eastern High School were detached from the package and awarded to the Johns Hopkins University. Its for-profit development arm, Dome Corp., is redesigning the building. Among prospective tenants is a new high school operated by the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

The city should set high and ambitious criteria when it seeks uses for the remaining 30 acres. Parcels of that size seldom become available. The location is pivotal and should not be squandered on anything second-rate. Its redevelopment will directly affect the largely underappreciated surrounding neighborhoods, such as Waverly, Ednor Gardens, Lakeside and Northwood. Also affected would be more distant residential areas, including Roland Park, Guilford and the Harford Road communities.

In the past, the various stadium neighborhoods have often had a clearer idea about what they did not want than what they did. During the heyday of Memorial Stadium, they liked the prestige of the ballpark but hated the crowds, traffic and noise. After the Orioles and then the Ravens flew the coop, some of those residents thought they could stop the clock, as if nothing would FTC happen to the empty real estate around them.

Stadium redevelopment, because it has to be market-driven, is unlikely to happen overnight. But regardless of the pace, the city ought to insist on the strictest design standards so that this rare site becomes something of which all Baltimoreans can be proud.

Pub Date: 3/20/98

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