The developers who want to turn Baltimore's dormant Memorial Stadium into a technology research park drew sharp criticism last night for making a public presentation about their project without being fully prepared.
"I'm a school teacher, and if I were giving you a grade on your presentation, I'd give you a D-minus," Cynthia Simmons, an Ednor Garden-Lakeside resident, complained to developer Theo Rodgers, a partner in the team that proposed the research park.
"And that's only because you showed up" for the meeting, Simmons added, explaining that otherwise she would have given Rodgers an "E" because he didn't have any handouts.
Simmons, a reading teacher at Highlandtown Middle School, was one of more than 600 people who crowded into the Baltimore City College auditorium last night to learn about three proposals the city has received for redeveloping the 29.5-acre Memorial Stadium parcel bounded by 33rd and 36th streets, Ellerslie Avenue and Ednor Road.
Besides the proposal for a $44 million, 300,000-square-foot technology park, one plan would recycle the stadium as part of a $55 million mixed-use complex with shops and recreational space and housing, and the third would raze it to make way for a $43 million "affordable retirement community."
Simmons and others said they were concerned about the plan for the research park because they didn't know what kind of research would be conducted there and how it would affect the surrounding residential communities.
"Tell me what research you want to put in my back yard," she said. "It's been my neighborhood for 24 years, and I want to know what research would be done here."
Others said they were wary about the research park plan because they weren't sure how much demand exists for research and laboratory space in Baltimore and didn't want to see the stadium sit vacant.
Rodgers, a principal of A & R Development Corp., said he was sorry that the schoolteacher thought the presentation deserved a D-minus. He explained that he could not say exactly what kind of research would take place because the development team has only begun to talk with prospective tenants and does not have control of the property.
But he assured the group that the team would obey all laws pertaining to chemical storage and other research issues and that additional public hearings would be held on specifics of the plan as they develop.
The audience listened attentively to all three presentations and asked hard questions about each of them.
No immediate consensus was reached about which one was favored or whether the stadium should be retained.
Many said they would like to see the stadium preserved for sentimental reasons. But others said they were more interested in getting a development that would benefit the surrounding community.
"The sentiment is pretty well split," said City Councilman Robert Curran.
A community panel will be appointed soon to review the proposals and make recommendations. City officials say they hope to select a developer by late next month.
"This is a fabulous turnout," Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III told the audience. "We go through these processes all year long, and we feel blessed to get 40 to 60 people. Over 600 people turned out tonight, and that shows you are interested in your community. We don't take this lightly."
Pub Date: 2/17/99