Neighbors resigned over prospect of juvenile center


Isabelle Marella says she won't be happy if a juvenile court and detention center is built about a quarter-mile away from her home in the 2400 block of W. Cold Spring Lane. But she won't feel threatened by it either.

"I'll just trust in that man up there," Mrs. Marella, 79, said, pointing skyward.

In 47 years, she and her husband, Salvatore Marella, 74, have seen their neighborhood go through many changes. In recent years, they've grown accustomed to the gunshots in the night and drug-dealing day and night.

The Marellas live in a block of modest rowhouses, homes that Mr. Marella helped build while working as a brick mason in the 1940s. The screen door of the house -- like many on the block -- is fortified with steel bars.

Mr. Marella said many elderly people live on the block, just west of Greenspring Avenue. He said it's a community of neighbors who look out for one another.

The drugs and the shootings didn't drive him away, and, he said, the juvenile center won't, either. He said the facility would be another load the community would have to bear.

He'll only concede: "It makes you kind of leery. We've got enough trouble as it is."

The couple's reaction was typical of residents who live near the site Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke favors for the new juvenile detention center and Northern District police station.

City and state officials are considering plans to build the juvenile center and police station on 27 acres that now is a city landfill.

The plan calls for building the facilities on the city-owned property on the south side of Cold Spring between the Jones Falls Expressway and Greenspring Avenue.

The proposed police station and juvenile justice center would be near the Woodberry, Greenspring, Edgecomb, Cylburn and Medfield neighborhoods.

During random interviews yesterday, only one area resident spoke about the project enthusiastically, but nobody denounced it.

Stacey Nicholson, director of capital planning for the state Department of Juvenile Services, said a decision on a site for the juvenile center should be reached early next week.

On Monday, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke told city business leaders that the site is being considered for the juvenile facility and a police station to replace the 95-year-old Northern District station in Hampden.

The $35-million juvenile center would be modeled after a facility in Indianapolis, housing caseworkers, court officials and a 144-center bed. Juveniles would be held at the center for short periods to await hearings.

Jacqueline M. Lampell, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Juvenile Services, said the detention center would be a secure facility.

"It is designed to be locked, and not to be escaped from," Ms. Lampell said, adding that officials will meet with community residents if the Cold Spring Lane site is chosen.

Sandra L. Wighton, principal at nearby Western High School, at 4600 Falls Road, said she expects neighborhood parents to be concerned about the detention center, but she does not expect an orchestrated campaign against it.

"Community organizations in this neighborhood are well-organized. They want to maintain a quality standard of living, but they're not reactionary," Mrs. Wighton said. "They're not opposed to change for the sake of being opposed."

Alex J. Kramer, president of the Coldspring Community Association, said his organization wants to influence the development of the facility.

"We're willing to cooperate," Mr. Kramer said. "But before we can really take an official stand on the issue, we want more information."

Selena M. Wright, who lives in the 2800 block of Oakford Ave. in Edgecomb, said she would rather have the facility built somewhere in Baltimore County because her community has enough problems.

But, "I don't feel no more bad off than I do with the people who are walking around now," she said.

Brian Oosterwyk, a part-owner and employee of S. S. Pennock Co., a wholesale florist that is the closest structure to the site, expressed concern about security at the detention center.

He said his business has been vandalized in the past by juveniles from a group home that once operated in the area.

"If it's a secure facility, fine," Mr. Oosterwyk said of the center. "As long as it's not like the Hickey school."

The Charles H. Hickey Jr. School is a facility for juvenile offenders in Baltimore County that has been plagued by escapes.

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