Confusion on 33rd Street

Memorial Stadium: City should insist on excellence when landmark ballpark is demolished next year.

May 19, 1999

YEARS OF speculation are finally over: The 46-year-old Memorial Stadium is to be razed, not recycled. What will be built in its place?

Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III, after negotiating with a committee of Waverly and Ednor Gardens-area community organizations, selected a proposal that calls for constructing a 446-unit senior housing development and recreation center at the 33rd Street site. But the very next day, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke confused the matter by saying that a technology park, the cornerstone of a losing rival proposal, was still a possible part of the project.

The bottom line: Nothing definite will happen before Mr. Schmoke leaves office in December. Redeveloping the Memorial Stadium site will be up to the next mayor.

This delay is good because the development strategy of the Schmoke administration -- take one item from Column A and one or more from Column B -- makes no sense. Here is a rare 29-acre site that City Hall wants to throw away for piecemeal development. Unbelievable.

Years ago, when redevelopment talk started, the Schmoke administration seemed to recognize the unique opportunity. The site was to be advertised for an international competition, but recession intervened. The site then was broken up and a chunk containing the former Eastern High School given to the Johns Hopkins University. Ultimately, three proposals were received for the stadium parcel; two would have retained the old ballpark structure.

Because the nonprofit Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. was given exclusive negotiating rights, the senior citizens housing complex is likely to be built. The rest of the plan, however, appears to be in flux. That's why it is not too late to prevent Memorial Stadium from becoming a hodgepodge of uses that squanders the potential of this unusual site.

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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