Northern District's relocation in fall raises questions in two neighborhoods

No decision yet made on where to put youths

July 17, 2000|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

The city police Northern District headquarters is soon to move from Hampden to a new building in the woods off West Cold Spring Lane, but the impending change has raised several issues and questions for the affected neighborhoods.

Among them are environmental concerns about the new site, where a brief work stoppage was ordered last month, and the preservation and redevelopment of an 1899 police building complete with stables, attics and a few cells. But most pressing, some Hampden residents say, is the question of what will happen to the citywide juvenile detention facility housed in the Victorian-era police station.

Police spokeswoman Ragina C. Averella said questions about the relocation of the juvenile facility have not been resolved. The target date for completion of the new Northern District station is October, city officials said, a year and a month over schedule.

The new building will have no room for juveniles, and a downtown state complex under construction on Gay Street that will house youthful offenders will not be completed for about another year. Deputy Commissioner Bert Shirey said police are considering two options: converting a former detention center for women now used for storage and attached tothe Central District downtown, or keeping the juvenile facility at the Hampden station open until the Gay Street facility is ready.

The latter solution has residents worried that developers will not be attracted to the property.

At a public meeting in North Baltimore on Thursday night, where three development proposals for the Northern District station were presented to Wyman Park and Hampden residents, redevelopment task force Chairwoman Kathleen Talty said community leaders would meet this month with city officials to discuss the juvenile detention issue.

Among those listening to the development proposals Thursday was M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city agency that will choose a developer in September.

"They're all very different, so there's a real choice," Brodie said of the proposals for a Heritage Savings Bank and bistro, a mixed residential and office development, and a 38-unit apartment complex. "But we always hear the P word," he added, referring to remarks about sufficient parking.

A few objections surfaced to a proposal to knock out the southern wall of the historic building, which two development teams have proposed; some residents said doing so would leave their properties exposed. And some expressed skepticism about a proposal to rent loft apartments in Hampden for $800 or $900, which they said was too expensive for the area. Speakers from BJB Realty Advisors and Mark Weinman, vice president of the Morris Weinman Co., said there is a demand for properties in that price range..

The audience was asked to fill out survey forms, which Talty said would be tallied this week.

It remains unclear when the redevelopment might proceed because construction of the new station house, on a former city landfill a mile north of Interstate 83, continues to encounter problems. Last week, the Board of Estimates approved a cost overrun of $400,000, city officials said. The budget was slated at $4.36 million.

Late last month, Public Works Director George L. Winfield signed a stop order after inspectors found violations of the plan for erosion and sediment control, state officials said. The problem was cleared up in a few days, said DPW spokesman Kurt Kocher.

"There's no problems with the soil, and the site is safe," Kocher said.

However, officials at the Maryland Department of the Environment say an additional study needs to be done of fresh soil samples from a mound of soil that has been disturbed and may be contaminated with chemicals from the landfill.

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