City moving to add sites for project

Bill would allow condemnation of 25 downtown buildings

`This is very important'

UM, medical system could expand east toward Inner Harbor

April 19, 2001|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

In an expansion of Baltimore's $350 million west-side urban renewal project, city officials may condemn 25 more buildings downtown, including a block on Baltimore Street where the University of Maryland Medical System hopes to build doctors' offices and clinics.

At the request of Mayor Martin O'Malley's administration, Council President Sheila Dixon is to introduce a bill tonight that would allow the city to use its power of eminent domain to help the medical system and the adjacent University of Maryland, Baltimore spread east toward the Inner Harbor.

"This is very important because it will create a link between the downtown central business district and the University of Maryland and University of Maryland Medical System," said Ronald Kreitner, executive director of West Side Renaissance Inc., a nonprofit organization supporting the proposal.

The properties marked for possible condemnation -- some of which are vacant and boarded up, others filled with barbershops, lunch grills, a nightclub and auto detailing businesses -- include 405-423 W. Baltimore St., 106-110 N. Eutaw St. and 303-327 W. Madison St., according to the proposed ordinance.

Charles Michie, owner of Millennium Cutz 2000 barbershop at 418 W. Baltimore St., was one of several business owners in the targeted area who said yesterday they are angry that the city did not notify them that they face eviction.

"I just hope the city is fair with me and compensates me fairly," said Michie, whose shop was packed with customers. "They are taking away people's livelihoods."

The west-side urban renewal project aims to build thousands of apartments and dozens of shops in a rundown area near the university that was once the city's main retail district.

The city targeted 110 properties in an 18-block area for possible condemnation in a May 1999 ordinance.

In buying up properties for the first two blocks of the project, the city has paid $9.3 million, compensating 32 landowners and 29 merchants, many of whom have praised the city for its generosity in paying more than required under federal guidelines.

The 25 properties being added are part of the next phase of the project, said Sharon Grinnell, chief operating officer of the Baltimore Development Corp., a quasi-public organization that is the city's development agency.

"This continues the west-side revitalization in bringing together a new urban neighborhood with housing, offices, shops and parking," said Grinnell.

The doctors' offices and clinics would be created inside preserved brick stores in the 400 block of W. Baltimore St., between where the state is investing more than $50 million to reopen the vaudeville-era Hippodrome Theater at 12 N. Eutaw St. and where the university is spending $42 million to build a law school at Baltimore and Paca streets."This is strong evidence of our deep and enthusiastic commitment to the west-side redevelopment," said Mark Wasserman, senior vice president for external affairs at the University of Maryland Medical System. "It is critical real estate for us because it is so close to the medical center."

Grinnell would not say what the city plans to do with the buildings targeted for condemnation at 106-110 N. Eutaw St., 303-327 W. Madison St. (immediately south of Maryland General Hospital's parking garage), 735 N. Eutaw St. and 121 N. Greene St.

She said more specifics would be revealed at a news conference today.

But sources familiar with the project said Planned Parenthood might be looking to build offices on Madison Street near the hospital as part of a project that would include offices and housing.

Stores that might be forced to move include: Grandma's Candle Shop at 405 W. Baltimore; Devine Seafood Inc. at 110 N. Eutaw; the New Civic Carry-out Restaurant at 420 W. Baltimore; Coconuts Cafe nightclub at 311 W. Madison; Vincent's Auto Accessories at 321 W. Madison; Class Cuts Beauty Salon at 315 W. Madison; and several others.

"I'm upset because we have been in this building for a long time and it's a good area for us," said Tatheia Smith, the owner of the Class Cuts Salon. "I don't want to move."

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