Demolition advised for dedicatory wall at Memorial Stadium

Veterans group favors new tribute downtown

October 26, 2001|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

With hundreds of thousands of dollars already spent preserving the 10-story Memorial Stadium facade that was a tribute to war veterans, a statewide veterans group has endorsed tearing it down in favor of building a memorial between the two downtown ballparks at Camden Yards.

With a recent unanimous vote, the Maryland Veterans Commission joined others who have spoken against preserving the wall, including neighbors, public officials and the church-based nonprofit Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. that plans to build senior housing on the former stadium's 30-acre site.

Aides to Mayor Martin O'Malley say he hopes to meet soon with veterans groups, community leaders and other interested parties to listen to views about the 33rd Street wall and the proposed placement of part of its message -- "Time shall not dim the glory of their deeds" -- on a memorial pedestrian promenade proposed between the downtown stadiums.

In February, O'Malley fashioned a compromise between preservationists, who wished to salvage and reuse most of the horseshoe-shaped stadium structure, and GEDCO that allowed for demolition of all but the memorial section -- leaving the huge wall looming over a soon-to-be-bare lot.

Preservation Maryland unsuccessfully took the city to court over the matter.

Yesterday, Robert C. Embry Jr., head of the Abell Foundation, which financed the preservationists' lawsuit, said he would not try to save the wall.

"My interest was to keep the stadium," he said. Referring to the deal reached to keep the wall, he said, "That wasn't any compromise, as far as I'm concerned. It's a waste of money propping it up."

A date for the meeting, which would revisit the mayor's earlier decision, has not been set, but a mayoral spokesman said the idea is to "bring everybody in, sit around the same table and hear what the interested parties have to say."

City Councilman Robert W. Curran, whose 3rd District includes the Northeast Baltimore landmark, said he has heard a chorus of constituents calling for the wall to come down. One, Herman M. Heyn, lives nearby in Waverly, and likens the wall to a "10-ton gorilla in your living room."

Curran said he plans to introduce a council resolution next month calling for the city's Board of Estimates to return to the original demolition contract to clear the site completely.

The concept of a pedestrian promenade, estimated to cost at least $1 million, was developed last year to include part of the stadium's stainless steel dedication to veterans of the world wars. The new memorial would pay tribute to all American veterans of war.

A commission member, Erwin A. Burtnick, said this week that it makes more sense to spend public funds on a new and more prominently placed public memorial than to shore up the old wall.

The cost of preserving the wall is about $1.4 million, half of which has been spent, Maryland Stadium Authority officials said yesterday. It is part of the $6 million state-funded demolition work that is expected to end in February.

The Rev. John R. "Jack" Sharp, president of GEDCO, said Wednesday that the wall would look out of place in the new senior housing community. "If we had our druthers, it would be a better project without a wall that stands about 10 stories tall," he said.

Plans for the project presented yesterday to the city's Design Advisory Board include houses and cottages in the GEDCO design that are at most four stories high.

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