Never in Charles L. Smith's 14 years on St. Paul Street has the area around Penn Station seemed so alive. The last thing the neighborhood needs, he asserts, is for a Greyhound bus station to rise north of the train station.
Lodging what amounts to an 11th-hour objection, he and allies are raising concerns ranging from added diesel exhaust to the prospect of loitering.
"What I think they're doing is driving another nail in the coffin, pure and simple," says Smith, vice president of the Charles North Community Association.
Greyhound Lines Inc., forced to leave its present quarters on West Fayette Street, disagrees. So does the administration of Mayor Martin O'Malley, which is moving ahead with plans to help pay for the $12 million to $15 million bus terminal and 325-car parking garage on Lanvale Street between St. Paul and Charles streets.
The station won final city design approval months ago. Greyhound wants to begin construction in June. But opponents hope to persuade the city to look elsewhere - such as a state-owned lot at Eutaw Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Smith's allies include Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, who holds properties on Charles Street.
Mark Fallis, Greyhound's senior manager of real estate, says the planned station would benefit the area. "We provide a service to Baltimore. Our passengers are citizens of Baltimore."
Smith acknowledges that his association last year wrote a letter in favor of the terminal. But he says a new study by Pacific Environmental Services Inc. says "unhealthy air quality levels currently exist in the neighborhood north of Penn Station," and new bus traffic will "exacerbate this situation."
And he worries about vagrancy, though not necessarily from riders. "We already have a lot of unsavory elements in the area - prostitutes and panhandlers - that put a huge strain on our services."
Kirby Fowler, O'Malley's special assistant for neighborhood and economic development, says the city will require a clean and safe station, with as little diesel exhaust as possible. "All of those things, well monitored, will lead to an attractive site," he says.