9:45 AM EDT, April 2, 2012
It's a start. Baltimore City's decision to consider selling or otherwise turning over 15 city-owned historic landmarks to new ownership or management is a step in the right direction. But is it well thought out and does it go far enough?
For decades the city's enormous collection of historic properties has languished. It has been clear for some time that neither municipal resources nor will are sufficient to provide the stewardship these properties require and deserve. The situation has worsened with every passing year, so I applaudMayor Rawlings-Blake's recent action.
But there is much more than 15 historic buildings and their appraisal that needs to be considered. Attaching a dollars and cents value to each building is one thing, but what about what they represent to the history of the city and our state? What are their best and most economically viable uses? Is the appraisal firm the best qualified and most appropriate to determine these? What have other municipalities' done to preserve and adaptively reuse their government-owned properties?
Clearly, a comprehensive plan, prioritizing the entire scope of needs and solutions for the city's historic properties, needs to be done. A task force comprised of elected officials, department chiefs, foundation leaders and representatives from other stakeholder organizations, including Preservation Maryland, should be appointed to tackle the issue.
Baltimore has one of the largest and most significant inventories of historic buildings of any city in America. That wealth of history should be a key part of the city's future. Let's not let a start be the end of the long overdue examination and plan.
Tyler Gearhart, Baltimore
The writer is executive director of Preservation Maryland.
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