Schmoke gets ovation from city businesses

He delivers final speech to partnership as mayor

January 20, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke delivered his final annual address to the city's Downtown Partnership yesterday, gaining a standing ovation from business leaders who commended him for bringing the city center to the brink of a $350 million reawakening.

Last month, Schmoke, after three terms as mayor, said he would not seek re-election next year. In a speech titled "The Next Chapter for Downtown Baltimore, 1999 and Beyond," Schmoke conveyed optimism that plans to renovate the west side of downtown will finally connect Charles Center, the Inner Harbor and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Schmoke, who was credited by partnership leaders with expanding initial downtown renewal plans, tried yesterday to stem growing rancor among some of the 127 downtown shop owners whose properties will be condemned by the 18-square-block renovation.

Although some shops will be displaced, Schmoke said he wants the shop owners to remain downtown.

In June, Schmoke joined downtown leaders in announcing the renovation, driven by the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation Inc. philanthropic group. Store owners whose properties are being condemned are complaining that their spots will be given to developers, including Weinberg.

"We may ruffle a few feathers," Schmoke said of the plan. "But we don't want to push anyone out of downtown."

Looking back on city history, Schmoke noted that the original Inner Harbor plans were also opposed by residents who viewed them as reckless. "Many of these plans are born of controversy," he said. "We know we don't want it to remain the same; we know we want it to be better."

Schmoke called the renovation of Howard Street the key to downtown resuscitation and said he would like to see a new arena built on the site of the Baltimore Arena at Baltimore and Howard streets. The city recently hired consultants to study alternatives.

Schmoke pledged that the city will not abandon the downtown homeless. Business leaders want to move Our Daily Bread soup kitchen, operated by Associated Catholic Charities, from its Cathedral Street site. A report on recommendations of a downtown business committee formed by Catholic Charities is expected to be released by the end of the month.

Pub Date: 1/20/99

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