West side plan would suburbanize historic city district...


April 12, 2000

West side plan would suburbanize historic city district

One needs only glance at the sketch of the proposed Howard Street USA project to see what an affront that project would be, in its present form, to the character of downtown Baltimore ("Parking demands fuel project debate," April 1).

"Honolulu Harry" Weinberg, the worst of absentee landlords, neglected the historic west-side buildings he owned.

Now the Owings Mills-based Weinberg Foundation wants to add insult to injury by demolishing those buildings and many others to inflict on our city the tackiest sort of suburban-style mall.

Do we really want national chain stores on the west side, when that would mean the displacement of homegrown and minority-owned small businesses?

Do we want to attract suburbanites and tourists, when that would mean driving out the people of West Baltimore who patronize those businesses?

What we really need is "Howard Street Baltimore" which would be a district of restored buildings housing and serving the area's present merchants and consumers, to whom the area really belongs.

If downtown Baltimore is to become Owings Mills, we might as well move to the suburbs.

John Maclay, Baltimore

It's sad that The Sun has endorsed the Weinberg Foundation's west side renewal plan ("Time to get going on west side revival," editorial, April 2). By doing so it is supporting a land-grab that is bound to be a social and economic disaster.

Opposition to the plan is based on a sound belief that the west side can be revitalized by building on its strengths as a multi-cultural shopping district with a fine collection of historic structures.

If we add to this better policing strategies, more promotion of inexpensive loft spaces and investment in small-scale shops, Baltimore could have a west side with the flavor of Georgetown or Philadelphia's Old City historic district.

The Weinberg plan is based on the spurious belief that suburban shoppers will come downtown to spend money at the same Starbucks and Old Navy stores they see at their local mall.

And, as for the notion that young urbanites will flock to the area, there is no proof that they want to shop at a new version of The Avenue at White Marsh.

Most disturbing, however, is the plan's unwillingness to take into account the social implications of gentrifying a multi-cultural, working class shopping district through condemnation and demolition.

Such tactics may leave scars that will never heal.

I hope that The Sun reconsiders its endorsement of the west side plan. We need this newspaper to stand up for reasonable development, not short-sighted schemes.

Richard Chambers Jr., Glen Burnie

City's zoo should remain an oasis of tranquility

I was dismayed to read about proposed changes to the Baltimore Zoo ("Better life for man, beast at heart of zoo plan," March 31.) Rather than focus on what makes the zoo unique, planners seem to want to pander to a fast-paced sensibility.

In this age of over-stimulation, it is inappropriate to turn this urban oasis into a theme park.

I try to take my son to the zoo at least once a week. As city dwellers, this is the only place we're guaranteed a safe, tranquil stroll. My son enjoys the fresh air. I appreciate the beautiful, historic elements.

The zoo should use its funds to continue updating this historic treasure. It should improve attractions on its back road and add access to the Waterfowl Lake, woodland pathways and free concerts for children on the front lawn while repairing stone walls and fences.

I consider membership to the zoo one of the best investments we've made. and one of the top reasons I enjoy city living.

Please maintain the zoo's history and dignity.

Patricia Wise, Baltimore

Stop pandering to Cuban exiles

It's tragic that what should be a simple, compassionate, common sense reunion of a 6-year-old with his surviving parent has turned into a political nightmare.

For far too long, the small Cuban exile community has held American foreign policy hostage. Their understandable but increasingly anachronistic anti-Castro obsession has become, in fact, both anti-American and anti-Cuban.

It's also tragic that so few political leaders, including both probable presidential nominees, have the courage to stand on principle and for our nation's best interests on this issue,

If they stopped pandering to this rabid special interest group, politicians might be surprised at how astute they'd look.

Roger C. Kostmayer, Baltimore

Suspending gas tax would help working poor

How can The Sun so strongly advocate boosting the state Earned Income Credit for the "working poor," ("Helping the working poor," editorial, April 1) which I applaud, and yet seem so oblivious to how many of these same people -- including cabbies, truckers, pizza deliverers and others who earn marginal livings -- could also immediately benefit if gas taxes were temporarily reduced or suspended ("Full of potholes," editorial, April 1)?

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