Fleeting urban fads Lexington Mall: Bringing car traffic back to troubled downtown shopping area is not enough.


BALTIMORE CLEARLY has money to burn. Why else would the city hire a consultant to study bringing cars back to Lexington Mall when another set of advisers has not reported on a plan to revitalize the troubled Howard Street retail corridor?

In 1974, when cars were banned from three blocks of Lexington Street between Cathedral and Eutaw streets, pedestrian malls were an urban craze. In city after city, the shared belief seemed to be that marginal retail areas would thrive again if shoppers jTC could stroll in landscaped areas without having to dodge traffic. When it became apparent that this was not a panacea, consultants started touting reopening the pedestrian malls to cars.

Over the past several decades, Baltimore officials have repeatedly resorted to simplistic gimmicks to try to revive Lexington Mall, which has become the domain of dollar stores and rock-bottom liquidators. The city has sunk millions of dollars into providing fancy street lighting or new traffic patterns, thinking such cosmetics could reverse the area's fortunes. To no avail.

A major study sponsored by the Weinberg Foundation, the area's dominant property owner, is about to be released. It is expected to call for demolition and redevelopment of much of the Lexington Mall area. The city ought to wait and see what comes out of that study, rather than wasting money on half-measures.

Pub Date: 5/14/98

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