Peter Angelos was not the problem with Superblock

March 28, 2011

I am not on Peter Angelos' payroll. We have at most a passing acquaintance. Other than as a skeptical and experience-hardened, cynical observer of all the State Center silliness, I'm not knowledgeable other than its obvious downsides. I'm sure its detail would drive me to distraction were I to delve into what's really afoot.

I am, however, intimately familiar with the shameful Superblock fiasco and its lessons. Bryan Dunn, Kevin Macartney, Brian Morrison and Thomas Ventimiglia demonstrate they are not ("Mr. Angelos, don't block State Center" March 23).

A $1 million state appropriation in 2000 for the Hippodrome re-do was contingent on Baltimore's agreement with the Maryland Historical Trust. The legislature's directed the trust to make sure to preserve as much of the nationally acknowledged significant buildings in the Superblock as possible. The current mayor's legislator father signed-off on this requirement and the current governor (then mayor) signed the resulting extensively negotiated memorandum of agreement. The city got the $1 million and spent it.

However, the Baltimore Development Corporation, which had issued a Superblock request for proposals requiring compliance with the MOA, somehow awarded the work to a developer's almost childlike demolition derby proposal that flew right in the face of the MOA. Then began a long series of like developer proposals from BDC to the trust. All were soundly rejected by trust until political pressure from high government levels was brought in December 2010. The trustees ultimately found themselves sandbagged, mugged, used and abused.

Citizens who accept the spoon-fed pap and spin that passes for news coverage here are dead wrong. They need wake up and watch carefully if they would rely on what they read or are told, particularly when that's not what they see or self-evident facts if they'd take the time to look.

Delays in the Superblock redevelopment weren't caused by Mr. Angelos or any lawsuit. They resulted from nothing but obdurate insistence of BDC in approving and fronting for a developer from the very start determined not ever to do what the legislature told them all they must do. Why BDC chose this developer, one can only speculate. Whether and when the Superblock gets redeveloped is anyone's guess.

What is not open to question is that the city is solely responsible for what you see there now: demolition by neglect of the former Read's drugstore and other historically and architecturally significant buildings; small businesses run out that were prospering there serving a large segment of our citizens (albeit not the Rodeo Drive clientele); almost a decade of threat of condemnation having discouraged all from maintaining or upgrading their properties. The resulting derelict desolation has cast a dark shadow on struggling properties for blocks around. None of that delay and decay is the fault of Mr. Angelos.

All should take a walk on the West Side. The real story is before your very eyes. The lessons of the Superblock betrayal are only ignored by those accepting the spin of government officials and the silence of The Sun.

Whatever one may think of Mr. Angelos, he ain't naïve. And thank heaven he's not beholden to anyone and not shy about calling things as they really are. Can any say he's wrong in arguing that the government should not add insult to injury by competing head-to-head with him and others downtown with their own tax dollars? Just imagine the uproar at The Sun if the city and state revived the News-American? Daily page one coverage for months? You bet! And the surely well-meaning folks from North of State Center should take a lesson from those who thought they could depend on a Superblock legislative mandate and a written agreement — you can't!

Rob Ross Hendrickson, Baltimore

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