Stadium site a developing battleground

Competing visions for Memorial reach as far as Annapolis

`People are conflicted'

Plan to build housing for seniors opposed by preservationists

January 23, 2001|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening was drawn into the debate over the fate of Memorial Stadium yesterday as advocates of a plan to replace it with senior citizen housing sought to fight off competing development proposals.

Officials of Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. said they'd consider leaving part of the site for economic development, but insisted the stadium must be torn down to make way for a senior housing community.

State legislators from Baltimore met late yesterday afternoon with Glendening, after a morning meeting of GEDCO officials, legislators, members of the City Council and community representatives.

The meetings took place as the state Board of Public Works, which must approve funding for demolition to proceed, prepares to meet tomorrow. The three-member board has been split, with Glendening in favor of approving demolition funding, state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer opposed and state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon the swing vote.

Dixon, heeding the opposition of Baltimore Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr., has been unwilling to vote for demolition. Last night, he said he would go along with the wishes of a majority of Baltimore legislators.

State Sen. Joan Carter Conway, who attended the meetings, said she plans to tell Dixon the majority favors demolition.

"The stadium needs to come down," the Baltimore Democrat said.

Montague was not available for comment yesterday. Over the weekend, he said he hoped to assuage concerns of veterans and preservationists, who oppose demolition.

"People are feeling conflicted," said Montague, who favors a university research or technology park for the site. "Voices are being squelched."

Last fall, GEDCO's plan seemed to be moving forward with the blessing of the Maryland Stadium Authority and Mayor Martin O'Malley. O'Malley favors GEDCO's proposal, but said he would like to see some economic development as well.

Advocates of other proposals, emboldened by Dixon's stance and O'Malley's openness to changes, have come forward.

Last week two groups expressed interest in redeveloping the Memorial Stadium property in ways that would preserve most or all of the stadium's shell, including the 110-foot-tall wall dedicated to war veterans, if the GEDCO plan does not move ahead.

One group is headed by a consortium of three developers, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, MetroVentures and Hawkins Development. They have proposed preserving the stadium and putting apartments inside its walls -- about 100 for elderly residents and another 100 apartments that would have no income or age restrictions.

They would use the former stadium playing field as green space and use the land around the stadium to build about 100 detached houses that would help stabilize the Waverly and Ednor Gardens neighborhoods.

Ted Rouse, a partner of Struever Bros., said his group's letter of interest was sent to the mayor's office last Friday and represents a modification of a $55 million proposal that Struever Bros. submitted in 1999. He said the plan no longer includes commercial space inside the stadium shell, designed now to strengthen the commercial strip along Greenmount Avenue rather than compete with it.

Rouse said his team would give GEDCO a chance to be part of the project and carry out its plans for housing for the elderly as part of the stadium preservation project. He said a YMCA branch and a food bank distribution center also could be accommodated inside the stadium walls.

The biggest innovation would be to allow people to live inside the restored stadium, said Janet Marie Smith, vice president of planning and development for Struever Bros. The old stadium has "a cachet that's very attractive right now," she said. We want to capitalize on it."

The second proposal came from George Holback, an architect working with a group of cycling enthusiasts organized as Baltimore Velodrome Inc. The group proposes using the stadium property to construct a covered bicycle racing track, or velodrome.

Its plan also calls for construction of 140 houses, or 42 houses and 300 apartments for the elderly, on land north of the stadium shell, as well as a supermarket, a YMCA, parking and other possible uses within the stadium shell.

GEDCO's plan for the 30-acre site includes a large YMCA. In a seeming concession to Montague, GEDCO Executive Director Julia Pierson said the southeast corner of the site could be devoted to commercial development.

"We'll work with [the Johns Hopkins University] to consider whether they'd consider developing that corner," she said.

But noting that Hopkins is upgrading a sizable property, Eastern High School, across the street from the stadium, she added, "It's 11:59," a reference to the last-minute nature of alternative proposals. "What the heck do they need our little corner for? That should not disrupt this process."

Sun staff writers M. Dion Thompson, Edward Gunts and Gady A. Epstein contributed to this article.

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