Abolish old downtown borders; Changing Baltimore: Much economic vitality is occurring outside traditional city core.


AS MAYOR Martin O'Malley begins to implement his administration's new initiatives, he should think about getting rid of the traditional definition of downtown.

Why is this important? Because the traditional downtown should take advantage of developments occurring just outside its borders in such places as:

Inner Harbor East, south of Little Italy, where a 31-story hotel, is rising next to a complex that will include another inn, movie theaters, shops and apartments.

Locust Point, where the old Procter & Gamble plant is being transformed into 360,000 square feet of office space with dramatic Inner Harbor views. Developers are interested in performing a similar facelift on another nearby industrial hulk as well, the old Coca-Cola bottling plant on Fort Avenue.

The Shot Tower area, along the Fayette Street corridor, where the city is creating a new business park that in the end may link up with the Johns Hopkins medical institutions to the east.

The redefinition of downtown should be broad enough to encompass these potential economic engines which derive at least some of their strength from their proximity to the central business district.

At present, even the most liberal City Hall definition regards downtown as stretching from the Maryland Science Center to Penn Station, with the Jones Falls Expressway and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the east and west. That's far too narrow a view to capitalize on the strengths of surrounding areas. A soon-to-be-launched Charles Street revitalization project, for example, stretches to North Avenue.

Rethinking downtown's borders is important because they impact city strategies.

Planning agencies should be realistic enough to include in their redefinition all the adjoining areas that are bringing badly needed growth and energy to the old commercial core.

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