Housing chief delays decision on stadium

Henson says economic factors will determine use of 33rd Street site

April 21, 1999|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Housing and Community Development Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III delayed his decision on the Memorial Stadium property yesterday, making no promises to follow a community consensus.

At a news conference, Henson praised "three outstanding proposals" for redevelopment of the 30-acre North Baltimore parcel: one for a senior citizen community and YMCA, another for a combination commercial/housing use, and a third for a technology research office park.

"It's a good process; there's nothing wrong with the process," said Henson. "But I don't necessarily make decisions by popular votes. I have to make the best decision for the city going forward." He said he would decide in about two weeks.

The proposal supported by the five neighborhood representatives on an advisory panel is the senior citizen village, proposed by the Govans Ecumenical Development Corp., a church-based development organization in Govans.

That is the only option that would demolish the stadium, where the Orioles and Colts recorded athletic milestones. The other two would preserve the stadium's shell and its pieces of Baltimore sports history. Henson noted that neighbors generally preferred to see the stadium fall but questioned whether state funds for demolition would materialize.

"That goes back to Governor Schaefer," he said, shrugging.

Henson said his decision would be largely economic, based on numerical scores that each proposal earned from the review panel of about a dozen members. Along with the five neighborhood activists, several city officials and one state official, Ed Cline of the Maryland Stadium Authority, served on the panel.

Henson said, "It's not an easy decision. I've slept on it a bit, with input from BDC [Baltimore Development Corp.]."

The commissioner indicated that the review panel, which met at least twice, might not have arrived at a clear conclusion, with the neighborhood leaders and some city officials leaning in different directions.

Henson said he will rely on a new conceptual tool in making his decision on Baltimore's largest development site. He said he would draw upon a "housing resource allocation model" analysis, which measures the financial impact of a public project. Variables can include location, crime statistics, infrastructure, cost of demolition and cost of renovation.

Deputy Housing Commissioner Victor Hoskins helped develop the model, which, he said, "measures the public return on investment" using cost-benefit analysis and other business techniques.

"The public interest goes beyond dollars and cents, but we're trying to use city dollars as effectively as possible," Hoskins said.

Henson gave no clue as to which proposal he thought yielded the greatest benefit. "In 90 percent of cases, I go with the panel," he said.

Two neighborhood activists who served on the panel hope that is true when it comes to deciding the issue that has been at the center of community meetings for years.

"We're not going to roll over, but we're hopeful that the process will work properly," said Eleanor Montgomery of the Better Waverly community organization.

Barbara Ruland of the Ednor Gardens/Lakeside neighborhood group, said the recreation component and the promise of green space offered by GEDCO appealed to her community.

"Since we're the people who live and look at it every day, I think major consideration should be given to the community choice," Ruland said.

Pub Date: 4/21/99

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