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Building a better Hamilton

Mark Twain was once quoted as saying that "the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

This is what came to mind as I sat listening at a recent City Planning Commission meeting.

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It was there I heard an attorney from neighboring Mayfield tell us that everyone knew the Hamilton business district is declining — and that he was there to represent the white knights who were going to curb the decline.

Like a Hollywood ending, they were coming in, at the last minute, unbeknownst to those in the midst of our decline, to save the day.

While it was difficult to believe this from a neighbor it was even more upsetting to hear it echoed by our 3rd District councilman, Robert Curran.

Fear not! Mr. Curran has a plan. He has a white knight. He and the owner of the property at the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Harford Road are coming to our rescue.

Given our imminent demise we can only be grateful for their effort. Their effort? Not wanting us to get upset, they decided to wait to tell us.

They did not go into the reasons for the decline; the vacant property and the fact the Hamilton Vacuum store is closing were evidence enough. They seemed unaware that Clementine's was not vacant but had shifted its attention to the catering business, or that the recently opened Silver Queen restaurant was doing well and was going to open a banquet center on the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Harford Road. It would be a place for wedding receptions and after funeral luncheons and other unspecified evening gatherings.

The ensuing exchange focused on access and parking. Access would be from the back. Parking for up to 200 patrons would be in the lot behind and around the neighborhood. When asked about access from Harford Road, their response was that would not be a problem. Sounds like a plan.

The one thing I wondered was: "Did they know where they were?" This is Baltimore. My first visit to Baltimore was on a Sunday during the City Fair. The City Fair, as most everyone who was here then remembers, was a celebration of Baltimore neighborhoods. Baltimore neighborhoods are the lifeblood of this city.

Within the neighborhoods are numerous community organizations and associations of people who love city life and show it by their participation in one these entities.

The organizations and associations are venues for our voices. They are often consulted when making decisions affecting the neighborhoods, especially if there is a threat. Few would dispute the threat of decline.

So I wonder why the owner of the building did not avail himself to this opportunity? An even more pressing question: Why did Mr. Curran, a longtime public servant, not encourage involving the neighborhood?

Meetings can be viable forums if effectively managed and facilitated. They help clarify issues, engage citizens and encourage support for decisions that developers ultimately make.

Joseph Chamberlin, Baltimore

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