11th-hour attempt to save Memorial

Preservation group, Schaefer try to block stadium's demolition

`Unconscionable' loss

January 27, 2001|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,SUN STAFF

A statewide preservation group, with the support of Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, is making a last-ditch effort to stop the demolition of Memorial Stadium, planned to begin in the next few weeks.

Preservation Maryland and three residents of Ednor Gardens, a neighborhood north of the stadium, filed an appeal yesterday with the city's Department of Housing and Community Development, asking it to pull back a demolition permit issued to Potts & Callahan.

The city issued the permit after the state Board of Public Works approved a $2.6 million contract this week with the firm, which would begin tearing down the former home of the Baltimore Orioles and Colts.

Demolition would clear the way for the planned development of a senior citizen community and YMCA center to be built on the 30-acre site in Northeast Baltimore.

"We're very concerned about anyone tearing it down," said Jamie Hunt, development director with Preservation Maryland. "It's a building that can easily be renovated to accommodate new uses, along the lines of the [American] Can Company in Canton." That building, a defunct factory, was renovated in the 1980s and 1990s, and now houses restaurants and stores.

Schaefer, who had bitterly opposed and voted against the contract, asked Gov. Parris N. Glendening in a letter yesterday to reconvene the board so it could rescind the demolition contract.

The comptroller reminded Glendening of his reasons for opposing the demolition - that it would be an insult to veterans to whom the stadium is dedicated and that, in his view, financing for the planned redevelopment remained in doubt.

But Schaefer said he had a "compelling" new reason to bring the project into question: an estimate by the architectural firm HOK Sport that the stadium is worth between $27 million and $36 million in its present form.

"In light of this information, it is unconscionable that such a loss be incurred," Schaefer said.

Based in Kansas City, HOK Sport is the architectural firm that designed Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the present home of the Orioles, and PSINet Stadium, the home of the Ravens.

The firm also designed improvements to Memorial Stadium before its use by the Baltimore Stallions, a Canadian Football League franchise, and the Baltimore Ravens, shortly after their arrival in the city.

Jim Chibnall, an architect with HOK, said the valuation was what it would cost to erect another facility the size and dimensions of Memorial Stadium.

"There is tremendous value to Memorial Stadium that can be looked at as an adaptive use," said Chibnall. "What's out there is a very stout piece of concrete with a brick enclosure. You could put a lot of different stuff in there."

Chibnall said the firm was asked yesterday by the comptroller's office to help with some technical details involved in its letter to the governor.

The architectural firm had once designed plans for Dome Realty, which wanted to keep the stadium intact and adapt it for use as a research technology park.

That plan was rejected in favor of the combined housing and YMCA project, which is to be built by the Govans Ecumenical Development Corp., a church-based consortium.

Plans call for 320 apartments, 80 assisted-living units and 30 cottages. About 500 seniors would be able to live in the Stadium Place community, conceived of as a national model for housing for the elderly.

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