Hotel would be an unwise use of special space The...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

January 04, 2003

Hotel would be an unwise use of special space

The American Institute of Architects' Urban Design Committee has long believed that the undeveloped space in front of Camden Station between Eutaw and Howard streets should be converted into a first-class urban plaza.

In his article on the recent proposal for a new hotel to be put in this lot, Edward Gunts identified how a "Thicket of issues lies in path to new hotel" (Nov. 24). We believe building the hotel in this location would be short-sighted, and would forgo the area's potential to accommodate an open space and a hotel.

A great public open space would provide many benefits to the "west-side renaissance." It would also provide an appropriate foreground to the historic Camden Station building, a grand entrance to the baseball stadium, an effective "front door" to the city and a visual link to downtown from both the interior and the exterior of the ballpark.

And it would create a breakout space for the convention center and a location for all the activities, vendors and impromptu assemblies at the entrance to Camden Yards.

Baltimore deserves a gathering, relaxing, playing and reading place for visitors as well as for the people who live and work in our great city.

As architects and urban planners, we realize it is tough for a city government to put valuable land to public use when it could generate tax revenue, particularly in these difficult economic times. But we also know that land adjacent to well-designed urban spaces increases the value of its neighbors. Mount Vernon Place is a perfect example.

And this space is one of the few downtown sites with the potential to become a great urban "place-making" success story - a space people really use, remember and talk about long after visiting Baltimore.

The right decision for the city is to put the hotel on an adjacent or nearby less-critical site (of which several are available) and give this parcel back to the public to improve our common urban experience.

Klaus Philipsen

Baltimore

The writer is co-chairman of the Urban Design Committee of the American Institute of Architects - Baltimore.

Transit systems enhance urban life

As a resident of Washington who uses the Metro daily, I see firsthand the great things the system has done for the Washington area. It has spurred development in the city as well as new urban centers in the suburbs (Bethesda, Arlington) and attracted a new wave of residents.

Yes, building a comprehensive rail system in Baltimore will be expensive. And yes, the plan has detractors who claim no one will use it. But the Washington Metro had its share of suburban detractors 30 years ago, too.

It is important to realize what rail transit will and will not do. It will not reduce traffic in the area in and of itself. It will, however, offer a viable alternative to the sizable number of people who live and work in Baltimore, enabling them to avoid the congestion.

It will also attract new residents to the city as well as the new development projects that, as a rule, spring up around major transit stops.

It will not reduce air pollution in and of itself. It will, however, encourage new businesses to locate in the city and existing ones to stay.

The choice for Baltimore is stark and simple. Do you want the city to flourish, with a stable presence of middle- to upper-income residents, businesses and cultural institutions and be a great place to live, work and play like Boston and Washington?

Or do you wish to abandon the city in favor of sterile, sprawling suburbs?

Rob Kogan

Washington

Stokes verdict offers no justice

The search for justice is a complicated one. However, there is no justice in allowing a man to arm himself, seek the man he feels has wronged him and shoot him in the street ("Acquittal of Stokes is a case of moral - not legal - justice," Dec. 21).

Allowing such vigilante justice is an affront to the sense of justice we strive to uphold. And after such a verdict, is anyone safe from a person who thinks he or she has been affronted in some way?

At what point is the grief or abuse suffered terrible enough to warrant a violent response? And who determines what response is appropriate?

The verdict in the Dontee Stokes trial is a perversion of the jury system our Founders relied upon to protect us from abuse by the state.

We are a nation of laws. The rule of law and the equal protection of the laws must be guaranteed to all citizens. There is no instance, save cases of self-defense, in which shooting another person is an acceptable solution.

I am sorry for the pain Mr. Stokes allegedly endured (and I do believe him), but I cannot excuse his behavior.

Stephen M. Chittenden

Baltimore

Prison alternatives can save millions

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