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A Rebuilding Year; Three contenders for Memorial Stadium redevelopment have very different game plans. Cities with similarly abandoned sports facilities will be on the edge of their seats.


As more and more cities build glitzy sports palaces, a new problem arises: What should be done with the old stadiums and arenas that are left behind?

As the first to construct side-by-side stadiums downtown for baseball and football, Baltimore has gained widespread recognition for demonstrating how sports facilities can help draw people back to the city while invigorating the surrounding area.

Now the city is in a position to lead the way again as it evaluates proposals from three local groups seeking rights to redevelop Memorial Stadium, former home to the Orioles and Ravens, the major league teams that moved to separate stadiums in Camden Yards.

Surrounded by stable neighborhoods and accessible from major highways, the 29.5-acre parcel has the potential to be one of the more valuable development sites in the region.

The developers are scheduled to present their proposals during a community meeting that begins today at 7 p.m. at the auditorium of City College, 3220 The Alameda. The city is expected to select one developer by spring.

Even though state funds are available to raze the stadium, city officials opted to let developers suggest the best way to reuse the property.

The result were three dramatically different visions for the city-owned tract bounded by 33rd and 36th streets, Ellerslie Avenue and Ednor Road. One would clear the stadium to make way for an "affordable retirement community." Another would transform the stadium to a commercial and recreation center, and put housing on the northern edge of the property. The third would turn the stadium into a "technology park."

Here is a brief analysis of the three proposals. Representatives for all three teams will be available at the public meeting to answer questions about their respective plans.

Vision One

Stadium Place, a $43 million "affordable retirement community" serving 550 to 600 low- and moderate-income residents: The development team is headed by Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. of Baltimore (GEDCO) and Presbyterian Homes Inc. of Camp Hill, Pa. Marks, Thomas and Associates is the lead architect, working with Morgan State University's Institute of Architecture and Planning. Harkins Builders of Silver Spring would be the builder.

The program: The developers would tear down the stadium and build a multi-faceted retirement community with amenities available to area residents. The plan calls for a YMCA branch and 7 acres of recreational space. Union Memorial Hospital would provide medical services and possibly move its geriatrics program to the site.

The developers say Stadium Place would be the first retirement community in the area to offer a continuum of housing and health care options without charging high entrance fees.

The design: The buildings have been designed as a residential campus with a range of building types, from detached "villas" to mid-rise apartments to a full service nursing center and medical offices. The lead architect, Marks Thomas, worked extensively on Oak Crest Village, Charlestown and other retirement campuses.

The buildings would be traditional in character and follow the established street grid of Waverly and Ednor Gardens. No structure would rise more than four stories. The plan also calls for an generous amount of green space to reinforce 33rd Street as a landscaped boulevard.

GEDCO argues that its plan would fill a long-standing need in the area without adversely affecting housing prices. At the same time, the developers say it would be a quiet, complementary use for surrounding communities. In a nod to war veterans, they plan to create a "memorial entry" in the form of a giant marker, low to the ground, that would preserve the words now on Memorial Stadium's front wall: "Time will not dim the glory of their deeds."

Pluses: The site plan is sensitive to the urban fabric and traditions of north Baltimore; its uses are not likely to disrupt the area. Forty percent of the site would be green space. The additional residents who would patronize nearby shops, restaurants, and businesses. Developers say the project will create 165 permanent jobs and generate $414,000 in annual tax revenues to the city.

Minuses: It doesn't save Memorial Stadium. The gesture of creating a memorial entry is considerate, but a ground-level memorial would not be as powerful as the existing wall.

Assessment: There will always be a need for good, affordable housing for the elderly. This is a project that deserves to be built somewhere in the city. It would be an ideal fallback plan, if the city can't find a way to save the stadium itself.

Vision two

Stadium Place recreational center and housing: A $55 million mixed-use development containing a grocery store, recreational areas such as an ice rink and driving range, parking, housing and a center for non-profit organizations. The development team includes Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse of Baltimore; Steve Sibel of Baltimore, and Metroventures of Columbia. Cho, Wilks and Benn would be the architect.

The program: The developers propose to fill Memorial Stadium with a mix of tenants that would keep the building open as a public attraction.

The most novel component of the original proposal was a cinema complex featuring seating made from the upper deck of Memorial Stadium, enclosed and subdivided to create 16 250-seat movie theaters. Other levels would contain a Super Fresh supermarket, health club, bank, themed restaurant, and parking. The stadium's lower level would be occupied by non-profit organizations dedicated to recycling and reusing materials. On the north edge of the property, the developers would construct 140 houses, with prices starting at $92,000.

Since the proposal was submitted in January, the developers have dropped the cinema complex from their plans, along with the nighttime entertainment components, in response to community criticism. They say the project would now have more recreation-oriented uses -- such as the driving range and ice rink.

The design: The architects, Cho, Wilks and Benn, have extensive experience in recycling old buildings and recently designed many of the interior spaces at Ravens Stadium. With the developers, they've been resourceful in seeking ways to reuse Memorial Stadium by matching existing spaces with appropriate tenants.

Pluses: The plan builds on the fact that people are accustomed to coming to this location for recreation. The Memorial Wall would remain and be accentuated with a new public forecourt. The development team has proposed to pay the city $1.5 million for the land and set aside eight acres for community recreational space.

Minuses: When the city was seeking bids, community leaders said that they would discourage proposals that were primarily commercial. They did not want a development that would harm existing commercial districts or corridors, such as Greenmount Avenue and Northwood Shopping Center. They also expressed concerns about building market rate housing, reasoning that new houses might have a chilling effect on sales of the existing housing stock.

Given these caveats, city leaders must decide if this team's approach, however creative, represents the right use for this location.

Assessment: On paper, this team's original proposal had plenty of pizazz. It would have helped bring Memorial Stadium back to life and it represented an intriguing prototype for recycling old stadiums. However, the emphasis on commercial development contradicted the community's previously-stated wishes, and the developers were probably wise to back off.

But now their plan is in flux and the previous commercial uses are changing either to recreational uses or unexciting ideas such as mini-storage. The plan now seems to be a grab bag that may be more palatable to the community but doesn't do justice to the history or majesty of Memorial Stadium.

Vision Three

Memorial Stadium Technology Park: A $44 million research complex containing 300,000 square feet of space for offices and laboratories, with ancillary retail space.

The development team is headed by Willard Hackerman of the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. of Towson and A&R; Development Corp. of Baltimore. Hellmuth Obata Kassabaum, architect of the stadiums in Camden Yards, would design the project, drawing on the resources of two specialty groups, HOK Sports Facilities Group and HOK Science and Technology. Whiting-Turner is the general contactor. Dome Corp., the real estate development arm of the Johns Hopkins University, is a consultant to the team and would help identify tenants.

The program: The plan calls for Memorial Stadium to be recycled as a high tech research park, containing laboratories and offices for groups that need high ceilings, good exhaust systems, minimal vibrations and other features that are hard to find and costly to build. The seating would be removed but most of the stadium's horseshoe-shaped shell would be preserved.

In addition, the team would add research space and a possible parking deck at the open end of the horseshoe. The infield would remain as a garden courtyard.

Design: On the exterior, the separate stair towers would be retained to provide access to different segments of the stadium, giving tenants their own addresses within the complex.

The Memorial Wall would remain, and a contemplative entrance court would be created. Light poles and other features of the original stadium would be retained as well.

The developers propose creating a continuous glass wall on the inside of the stadium that would let natural light into the research labs and offices. Two levels would be added between the stadium concourses to create five stories of leasable space, overlooking the infield courtyard.

Pluses: Of the three proposals, this is the most sensitive to the historic character of the stadium and would result in the fewest changes to the exterior, including the Memorial Wall. It is the only one that would save the infield as well as the stadium shell. The developers have offered to pay the city $4.5 million for the property and donate another $100,000 to a neighborhood association of the city's choice, "for residents to design their own use of the site's green space," consistent with the developer's total plan.

Furthermore, this use is unlikely to disrupt the surrounding residential areas and in many ways could be an anchor for them. It wouldn't compete with existing commercial corridors or housing stock. It is compatible with the satellite campus that Hopkins is building across 33rd Street, at the old Eastern High School property. It is equidistant to two Hopkins campuses, Homewood and East Baltimore, and conceivably could provide spillover space for either one. It is also close to Morgan State University, which has joint engineering programs with Hopkins.

Minuses: The chief question is whether there is sufficient demand for this sort of space. But Dome representatives have concluded that there are plenty of candidates, since the space will be suited to the demands of bioscience, bioengineering, physics, software development and electronics.

And since the stadium shell is already up, interiors can be finished gradually as tenants materialize.

Assessment: This proposal is the most fully developed. The sponsors make a convincing argument that it's cost effective to convert a former sports facility to a technology park. With the Hopkins and HOK connections, it's the sort of project that could win national acclaim as a symbol of "smart growth." Sedate, serious and respectful of the original stadium, it has to be considered the front runner.

Development team lines up lead tenant

The development team that wants to turn Baltimore's Memorial Stadium into a $44 million technology park has found a possible lead tenant for its project.

The Maryland Center for Arts and Technology Inc., a nonprofit corporation that provides specialized training of adults for technology-oriented industries, has expressed interest in leasing 30,000 to 40,000 square feet of space to create a center for "imaging and digital arts."

A letter of interest from the organization, headed by LeRoy Hoffberger, was included in the proposal submitted by Willard Hackerman of Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and Theo Rodgers of A & R Development.

As part of their proposal, Hackerman and A&R; also indicated they would:

Pay the city $4.5 million to acquire the stadium and surrounding grounds. Donate $100,000 to a neighborhood association selected by the city. The grant is earmarked for "for residents to design their own use of the site's green space," consistent with the developers' total plan.

Eventually donate the entire property to the Johns Hopkins University

In a letter submitted with the proposal, Hopkins president William Brody said he is pleased that A&R; and Hackerman, a Hopkins trustee, stepped forward to carry out the project that a Hopkins affiliate originally proposed.

"Hopkins must focus its limited resources on commitments already made and on its core missions of education, research and patient care," Brody said in a letter to Rodgers and Hackerman. "We are delighted that people of your caliber are willing to assume the responsibilities associated with the project to see it through to successful completion." Pub Date: 2/16/99

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