Coppin hopes state funds aid plans for old hospital

School plans to use grant to defray demolition costs

December 27, 2003|By Reginald Fields | Reginald Fields,SUN STAFF

Coppin State College has no specific plans for the property where a former hospital stands just south of campus, but the school hopes to demolish the dilapidated buildings at the site with money it recently received in a state grant. And as far as residents in the West Baltimore neighborhood are concerned, the wrecking ball can't starting swinging soon enough.

Coppin State acquired the former Lutheran Hospital and a connecting building, the former Hebrew Orphan Asylum, this year. The hospital has been vacant for 14 years and the 6-acre site has deteriorated into a wasteland smack in the middle of the Rosemont neighborhood.

"It's just an eyesore," said Hattie Rhames, president of the Rosemont/ Dukeland Tenants Council. "They kept saying they were going to do something with it but that there wasn't any money to work with. But we're praying."

The state awarded a $162,500 Legacy grant this month to the Coppin Heights Community Development Corp., a nonprofit organization founded by the college in 1995 whose mission is to eliminate blight and improve safety on and around the campus.

The college has been saying it hopes to demolish the structures at the Lutheran Hospital location and build a public boarding school or professional development academy.

"We are going to be able to put this money to use right away. It's a start," said Arthur Childs, interim executive director of the Coppin Heights Community Development Corp.

Since new Coppin State President Stanley F. Battle announced that developing the site would be a priority for his administration, residents have been hopeful the blighted buildings would be knocked down.

"The way that place looks now, it's just a disgrace that it has gotten that way," said Charlotte Perry of the Alliance of Rosemont Community Organizations. "But maybe this grant will help move things along. I know they have been talking about doing something over there for a long time."

Childs, who wrote the grant proposal, said residents' concerns have been taken into consideration.

"We do own the hospital site and the old Jewish asylum," said Childs. "Our intent is to be good neighbors over there to the extent that we are property owners. We're cleaning it up and securing it to keep people from coming in."

Childs said the grant money would be used to help defray the cost of demolishing the old hospital, which will exceed $1 million, and to further plans for the site. A committee has been assembled to work on a master revitalization plan for the area. However, a timetable for the work has not been set.

Childs said the school has spent $40,000 cleaning up the property and reinforcing fences on the perimeter to keep out squatters and people who dump garbage.

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