For three years, New York developer Dean Gitter was unable to fulfill his dream of Worldbridge Centre, an Asian-themed cultural, trade and investment complex. Then Westinghouse Corp. took over as project manager for the complex, which supposedly will be built on 1,000 acres of vacant land in Middle River. Westinghouse's respected name raised hopes that the $1 billion project would quickly take shape and become reality.
Yet almost a year after Westinghouse entered the Worldbridge development process, there is even more confusion than before in Baltimore County about exactly what is being planned for that "Asia Pacific Worldpark."
Instead of concrete proposals, county officials and area residents have been told to expect a replica of Japan's Mount Fuji, a Hindu temple from India, elephants from Thailand, Buddhas from Korea and an exotic theater that would simulate a rough ride on a camel. Whatever will be built will have the blessings of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled religious leader, they have been assured. Terrific!
When Westinghouse joined Worldbridge, we welcomed the project as a tourism and investment magnet that could give the region an enormous economic boost. We still believe a project like Worldbridge could strengthen Maryland as a major player in foreign trade and create substantial economic spinoffs. But in the absence of specific plans, timetables and financial details, we wonder if the park ever will be built.
The next several days could be crucial. Baltimore County Executive Roger Hayden and the Middle River area's councilman, Vincent Gardina, are to announce their stands on zoning changes that are essential for park construction to begin. Opponents of Worldbridge have been bombarding both officials with objections that range from petty and parochial to racist and ridiculous. If Worldbridge's backers are serious, they had better produce a definitive blueprint and end the confusion that endangers their ambitious project.