Draft design for stadium development wins praise

July 29, 1999|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Seeking to preserve "the ghost of the stadium," Baltimore architect Paul Marks has presented a city panel with a detailed concept design for a senior housing community and a YMCA on the Memorial Stadium site in North Baltimore.

Standing empty, the storied stadium is due to be demolished next year. In May, the city selected a proposal for an affordable retirement community for about 500 people as the best use of the 29-acre parcel.

Neighborhood leader Barbara Ruland this week praised the design, created by Marks for Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. (GEDCO). It received favorable comment from the city's design advisory panel last week, though reservations were voiced about the large number of parking spaces and the barren look of the complex from the public entrance on 33rd Street.

Panel members were especially impressed with the unexpected amount of open space, which would have rows of trees along walking lanes and courtyards, in what Marks hopes will be a "campus-type" environment for senior citizens.

The main thing, said M. J. "Jay" Brodie, a panel member and president of Baltimore Development Corp., is to avoid the appearance of an institution "where elderly people are housed. Keep it from being uniform."

Housing and Community Development Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III said the presentation showed progress from an earlier version.

Speaking of a deadline for securing financing for the estimated $43 million project, Henson said, "GEDCO has until Nov. 8 to convince us it will work."

GEDCO officials expressed optimism that financing would come through.

During Marks' presentation, Brodie praised the "Stadium Place" centerpiece, the original baseball diamond and football field reincarnated in an oval YMCA playing field, as "a terrific idea."

Marks said saving the old field's shape "seemed to capture everyone's imagination in recalling the history of the place." He added, "Older people want activity, and they have time to spend. It's interesting to watch children at play."

Surrounding the field would be 30 senior citizen cottages; a community playground; two apartment buildings, one with 160 units and the other 180; an assisted-living facility; and a 40,000-square-foot YMCA complex.

The panel found the proposed parking lot a visual blight on the 33rd Street side because of its size.

"We're still working that through with stakeholders," Marks said early this week.

In a wry aside at the meeting, he said, "Nobody wants to [park] less than 50 feet from the front door [of the Y] even though they're going to work out."

Marks said that YMCA plans include a pool, day care center and possibly a coffee shop intended as a "civic gesture."

Where to house some remnant or replica of the words of the dedication of Memorial Stadium in 1954 is undecided. Marks and others emphasized that the design is a work in progress. "It's a tremendous opportunity to have an impact on that part of town," said Marks.

Pub Date: 7/29/99

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