Residents form a panel for Fells Point pier plan

`Homicide' show's lease expires Dec. 31

city wants film, TV production there

August 25, 1999|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

Residents and community leaders in Southeast Baltimore have formed a planning committee to outline their vision for Fells Point Recreation Pier, but the real task might be persuading the city to listen.

The city-owned pier and accompanying building in the 1700 block of Thames St. served as home to "Homicide: Life on the Street" for seven years until the NBC television drama was canceled after last season.

Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III had said in June, and reiterated last week in a letter to the community, that after the lease with the show's producers expires Dec. 31, the pier will continue to be used for film and television production.

But the community hasn't given up. A group rallied on the pier's steps last month, and about 90 people met Monday night at the St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church hall in Fells Point to discuss ideas and create the committee.

"The city has unilaterally decided to do this without any community input," said John Lundquist, a community and economic development organizer for the Southeast Community Organization, which sponsored the two-hour forum.

The committee of about 10 volunteers plans to hold a meeting at 5: 30 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Southeast organization's office in the first block of Wolfe St. to create a comprehensive plan for the pier and a strategy to present it to the city. Neighborhood association leaders are invited.

Representatives from the committee will go before the city's Board of Estimates on Sept. 8 and ask it to refrain from voting on anything that involves the pier until the community is consulted.

The 41,580-square-foot Recreation Pier opened in 1914 for maritime business and recreational activity. The pier building housed a ballroom, and outside were play sets, basketball and tennis courts and sitting areas.

Many residents want the pier to return to its original form. At the Monday meeting, which also served as a campaign stop for several City Council and mayoral candidates, they talked about what they would like to see done.

A gymnasium for children, adult education center, roller-skating rink, picnic area and other recreational facilities were ideas discussed.

Kathy Hermann, 51, of the 800 block of Bond St. shared her memories of taking her children to the pier where they played all afternoon.

"It was beautiful up there," an emotional Hermann said. "It was on the water. It was a very special place."

John Milton Wesley, a housing department spokesman, said it would cost the city more than $1 million to do adequate repairs to the pier to make it usable for recreational activities.

Based on a 1992 survey by the Department of Public Works, Wesley said, the pier can stand 100 pounds of pressure per square foot, and the city would like to make it 400 pounds per square foot.

"That would make it safe for having people on it," Wesley said.

Pub Date: 8/25/99

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