BALTIMORE HAS CAUSE to celebrate. The $22.7 million grant the city received to demolish and replace a public housing complex at the 14.7-acre Lexington Terrace site may be some of the last money Washington awards for such purposes.
Did politics -- and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's friendship with President Clinton -- play a role in Baltimore's selection as one of the only four cities to win a grant? Possibly. But the fact is Baltimore submitted an innovative proposal that promises to transform what today is a dilapidated and crime-ridden warren of high-rises into a stable and less dense community of renters and homeowners. Moreover, every federal dollar invested in the project will be matched by three from private sources.
Under the plan accepted by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the five Lexington Terrace high-rises and the two- and three-story buildings will come down. The only building to remain on the site will be an elementary school, which will be expanded to include classes for a middle school.
The plan calls for the construction of 316 rowhouse units, 113 of which will be sold to homeowners, 100 senior citizen apartments and a business center with job-training programs at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Fayette Street. Day-care and recreation facilities will be clustered around the school.
"In many respects it is a mini-Sandtown," said developer Ted Rouse, referring to another ambitious West Baltimore project to transform a declining neighborhood.
The Lexington Terrace project should be even more successful than Sandtown. That's because the developers, Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse, have teamed up with the Council for Economic and Business Opportunity, the University of Maryland Medical System, the Enterprise Social Investment Corp., Bon Secours Hospital, NationsBank and others to create an array of health programs and job-training initiatives.
With redevelopment projects scheduled to start soon on nearby West Baltimore Street blocks, the new Lexington Terrace neighborhood gives Baltimore a chance to build a community of which the whole city can be proud.