Schaefer tries end run to delay razing stadium

Comptroller criticizes city's plan for housing at 33rd St. location

June 08, 2000|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Comptroller William Donald Schaefer waged a fierce but futile effort yesterday to stall the demolition of Memorial Stadium, criticizing Baltimore's plan to build housing for the elderly there rather than a high-tech research center proposed by a longtime friend.

His effort failed, but not before the former boss of City Hall demonstrated that he's as willing to second-guess Mayor Martin O'Malley as he was to question Kurt L. Schmoke's decisions.

Schaefer accused city officials of caving in to neighborhood residents and local merchants by choosing the $47 million Stadium Place project, a mix of recreation facilities and mixed-income retirement housing, over more business-oriented proposals. The rejected plans would have preserved parts of the stadium, which housed the Orioles and Colts in their glory years.

"You're afraid of competition from a bunch of businesses on Greenmount Avenue that are a disgrace," Schaefer said during a prolonged dressing-down of City Councilman Robert Curran at yesterday's meeting of the state Board of Public Works.

Schaefer dismissed a message from O'Malley expressing support for the Stadium Place project, calling it "a nice form letter." He questioned the mayor's understanding of the issue, even though O'Malley represented the neighborhoods around the 33rd Street stadium on the City Council before his election last year.

"He doesn't know this project," Schaefer said later. "He was only interested in police. He's still only interested in police."

O'Malley said his message was not a form letter but a personal assurance Schaefer requested at an earlier meeting. The mayor said he was fully familiar with the project, which is being developed by Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. (GEDCO).

"I'm fully on board with it. I was fully on board with it as a councilperson, too," O'Malley said. "The GEDCO project is far more compatible with the character of that neighborhood."

Schaefer launched his attack as Curran, Maryland Stadium Authority Executive Director Richard W. Slosson and other officials appeared before the board to urge approval of two preliminary demolition contracts that had been delayed once at Schaefer's request. One is to haul remaining memorabilia out of the stadium for a planned sale. The other is for removal of asbestos and other hazardous materials.

Schaefer repeatedly sought to postpone consideration of the contracts, rejecting warnings that a delay could cause the city to miss a June 19 deadline for assuring lenders that demolition would proceed.

He dropped his objections when it became clear he did not have the support of Gov. Parris N. Glendening or state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon. But Schaefer indicated that he would fight again when the main demolition contract comes before the board this summer.

The centerpiece of the Stadium Place proposal is what the developers call an "affordable retirement community" serving various income levels. It includes 320 apartments, an 80-bed assisted-living facility and 30 resident-owned cottages. The 30-acre site will also house a YMCA recreation center and athletic fields.

The alternative Schaefer favored was a high-tech research park - including offices, laboratories and stores - proposed by Whiting-Turner Construction Co. and A & R Development Corp. Whiting-Turner is owned by Willard Hackerman, a close friend of Schaefer's. A & R's owners also have close ties to the comptroller.

Schaefer said yesterday that he hadn't discussed the Whiting-Turner proposal with company officials and didn't care who the developer was. Deriding the GEDCO proposal as "low-income housing," he said he was concerned that the city was missing an opportunity to create jobs.

"The tax base of the city is shrinking," he said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.