Some nearby residents remain unconvinced.

"It seems counterintuitive," said Charles Cohen, a freelance writer who lives in Fells Point. "If you're making a toxic site safe by trying to close it off, why are you opening it up?"

Unlike the City Council public hearing and open meetings on the $107 million tax increment financing plan, there hasn't been any official airing of the environmental issues.

"That's why there hasn't been any public outcry," said Cohen. "There hasn't been any public discussion — I wonder if it's too late." Without reassurances, he added, he would consider moving with his two young daughters from his home of 15 years.

The developer and state and federal agencies have scheduled a public meeting from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the Morgan Stanley building to present plans for the Exelon project and take questions.

State and federal regulators, who have the final say on environmental safeguards, say they're reviewing the developer's detailed construction plans and expect to make a decision this fall.

"My concern is that it's done right," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "Yes, this is a delicate operation. But in order for it to happen, we had to get pre-approval from the regulatory agencies, and they believe it can be done in a way that's safe."

Despite other successful redevelopments, Burke and other experts say that every hazardous site is different and deserves close scrutiny.

"You do it cautiously," Burke said, "because these sites can be porcupines."

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.