Planned downtown school opposed

Business leaders warn that it may hurt revival

February 08, 2002|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

A city school system proposal to open what would be its only downtown high school at Charles Plaza drew criticism last night from several prominent business leaders, who said they worried about potential effects on efforts to revitalize the "severely challenged" Charles Street corridor.

The proposal calls for a 500-student high school on the second floor of the partially vacant commercial center at Charles and Saratoga streets. It would open in September with 125 to 150 ninth-graders, expanding by one grade each year to 2005, and house an Academy of Finance and an Academy of Travel and Tourism.

Business leaders praised the idea behind the program - which seeks to offer strong academics with the opportunity for internships at nearby businesses and hotels - but said they opposed the location.

"There are a lot of challenges here, and the sense is that this is not the right time or the right place to move this facility into this building," said Michele L. Whelley, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc.

Jimmy Rouse, vice chairman of Charles Street Development Corp., said the redevelopment of Charles Plaza would determine the success of the corridor's revitalization. Bringing busloads of children into the congested area, he said, would be "devastating" to local businesses.

"This is going to be the wrong location for it," he said. "There are other locations downtown that would be much more appropriate."

Speaking on behalf of the law offices of Peter G. Angelos and WestSide Renaissance Inc., Thomas N. Marudas called the site "extremely inappropriate" because of the school's proposed enrollment and because of the "fragileness" of the area. He said some of his member businesses, including Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Tremont Plaza Hotel, were concerned about the proposal.

Kemp Byrnes, president of the Historic Charles Street Association, also said a high school there could have a "negative impact" on economic development.

School officials said they had researched more than a dozen other possible downtown locations, but that Charles Plaza was "by far" the best site.

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