Highlandtown meeting to weigh sites for new regional library Large facility planned for Southeast Baltimore

July 30, 1998|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

Site selection for a new Enoch Pratt Free Library branch in Southeast Baltimore -- one of four large regional libraries planned for the city in the coming century -- will be discussed tonight at a community meeting in Highlandtown.

The meeting, sponsored by the Pratt and the South East Community Organization, begins at 7 p.m. in the hall of Our Lady of Pompei Church, Claremont Avenue and Conkling Street. City planners will attend.

Pratt officials are expected to discuss sites for the new library -- a 20,000-square-foot state-of-the-art information center to replace at least one branch in Southeast Baltimore.

The project is estimated at $10 million.

Pratt Director Carla D. Hayden said possible locations are on or near the Eastern Avenue shopping corridor, an ailing commercial strip in the heart of Highlandtown that community nonprofit groups have been trying to revitalize.

Hayden identified potential locations as the odd side of the 4000 block of Eastern Ave., which has small shops; the site of a bank near the closed Grand Theater in the 500 block of S. Conkling St. and 3801 Eastern Ave., the location of a supermarket.

First District Councilman John L. Cain said he supports the new library but questioned the wisdom of purchasing sites held by viable businesses.

"We need to be adding to the area, not replacing," said Cain.

A $3 million bond issue for planning, design, site acquisition and initial construction costs for the first regional library will be on the city ballot in November. Melanie Wilson, deputy director of city planning, said that while the bond money gradually will be disbursed once approved, "we plan on funding the entire thing."

James C. Welbourne, the Pratt's assistant director, said Highlandtown would be the first community to get a new library since 1971.

"When we went around to public forums last year explaining what we wanted to do, some people questioned whether a large regional library had a place in the city," said Welbourne.

"But early on, the people in the southeast indicated they would welcome one. Preliminary selections hover near or face Eastern Avenue."

Of four branches open in Southeast Baltimore -- Canton, Highlandtown, Fells Point and Patterson Park -- the Highlandtown branch at Eastern and Highland avenues would most likely close once the superbranch is built in 2001 or 2002.

Welbourne said the other branches would be candidates for renovation, but she would not say whether any of them would be threatened by a new library in the area.

Distributing 9.5 points of excess space through leg.

Pub Date: 7/30/98

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