A Rebuilding Year

Three contenders for Memorial Stadium redevelopment have very different game plans. Cities with similarly abandoned sports facilities will be on the edge of their seats.

February 16, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

As more and more cities build glitzy sports palaces, a new problem arises: What should be done with the old stadiums and arenas that are left behind?

As the first to construct side-by-side stadiums downtown for baseball and football, Baltimore has gained widespread recognition for demonstrating how sports facilities can help draw people back to the city while invigorating the surrounding area.

Now the city is in a position to lead the way again as it evaluates proposals from three local groups seeking rights to redevelop Memorial Stadium, former home to the Orioles and Ravens, the major league teams that moved to separate stadiums in Camden Yards.

Surrounded by stable neighborhoods and accessible from major highways, the 29.5-acre parcel has the potential to be one of the more valuable development sites in the region.

The developers are scheduled to present their proposals during a community meeting that begins today at 7 p.m. at the auditorium of City College, 3220 The Alameda. The city is expected to select one developer by spring.

Even though state funds are available to raze the stadium, city officials opted to let developers suggest the best way to reuse the property.

The result were three dramatically different visions for the city-owned tract bounded by 33rd and 36th streets, Ellerslie Avenue and Ednor Road. One would clear the stadium to make way for an "affordable retirement community." Another would transform the stadium to a commercial and recreation center, and put housing on the northern edge of the property. The third would turn the stadium into a "technology park."

Here is a brief analysis of the three proposals. Representatives for all three teams will be available at the public meeting to answer questions about their respective plans.

Vision One

Stadium Place, a $43 million "affordable retirement community" serving 550 to 600 low- and moderate-income residents: The development team is headed by Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. of Baltimore (GEDCO) and Presbyterian Homes Inc. of Camp Hill, Pa. Marks, Thomas and Associates is the lead architect, working with Morgan State University's Institute of Architecture and Planning. Harkins Builders of Silver Spring would be the builder.

The program: The developers would tear down the stadium and build a multi-faceted retirement community with amenities available to area residents. The plan calls for a YMCA branch and 7 acres of recreational space. Union Memorial Hospital would provide medical services and possibly move its geriatrics program to the site.

The developers say Stadium Place would be the first retirement community in the area to offer a continuum of housing and health care options without charging high entrance fees.

The design: The buildings have been designed as a residential campus with a range of building types, from detached "villas" to mid-rise apartments to a full service nursing center and medical offices. The lead architect, Marks Thomas, worked extensively on Oak Crest Village, Charlestown and other retirement campuses.

The buildings would be traditional in character and follow the established street grid of Waverly and Ednor Gardens. No structure would rise more than four stories. The plan also calls for an generous amount of green space to reinforce 33rd Street as a landscaped boulevard.

GEDCO argues that its plan would fill a long-standing need in the area without adversely affecting housing prices. At the same time, the developers say it would be a quiet, complementary use for surrounding communities. In a nod to war veterans, they plan to create a "memorial entry" in the form of a giant marker, low to the ground, that would preserve the words now on Memorial Stadium's front wall: "Time will not dim the glory of their deeds."

Pluses: The site plan is sensitive to the urban fabric and traditions of north Baltimore; its uses are not likely to disrupt the area. Forty percent of the site would be green space. The additional residents who would patronize nearby shops, restaurants, and businesses. Developers say the project will create 165 permanent jobs and generate $414,000 in annual tax revenues to the city.

Minuses: It doesn't save Memorial Stadium. The gesture of creating a memorial entry is considerate, but a ground-level memorial would not be as powerful as the existing wall.

Assessment: There will always be a need for good, affordable housing for the elderly. This is a project that deserves to be built somewhere in the city. It would be an ideal fallback plan, if the city can't find a way to save the stadium itself.

Vision two

Stadium Place recreational center and housing: A $55 million mixed-use development containing a grocery store, recreational areas such as an ice rink and driving range, parking, housing and a center for non-profit organizations. The development team includes Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse of Baltimore; Steve Sibel of Baltimore, and Metroventures of Columbia. Cho, Wilks and Benn would be the architect.

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