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Future of Park Heights depends on Pimlico track’s revival plan | READER COMMENTARY

An empty track is seen in front of the Pimlico Race Course grandstands on a simulcast day last year.
An empty track is seen in front of the Pimlico Race Course grandstands on a simulcast day last year. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

Nothing is more near and dear to me than the Park Heights community and the city of Baltimore. Having been raised on Oakley Avenue, attended the newly improved Pimlico Elementary/Middle School, and been a past chair of the Park Heights Renaissance Corporation Board, where I worked alongside Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, my heart breaks when I travel the neighborhood streets and see blight and decay.

The people of Park Heights, consisting of a dozen diverse neighborhoods with 30,000 residents, want and need more, and the time has come to help them achieve better. That is why I unequivocally support the plan to renovate and rebuild Pimlico Race Course (“8 key issues facing Maryland lawmakers during the 2020 General Assembly session," Jan. 7) as a state-of-the-art event center that will bring important assets to Park Heights and the entire surrounding area.

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From my viewpoint, one of most important aspects of the Pimlico project is the degree to which the benefits of this project are directed to the community. As Del. Eric Luedtke recently stated before the Greater Baltimore Committee, “this is not just about a horse race … it is about the city and its communities.”

As an institutional investor and philanthropic leader, I fully understand the benefits that neighborhood investment brings — job creation, self-esteem, increased services, economic vitality and cleanup are just the basics that come with such investment. This plan will further provide community access to new turf sports fields and other facilities sorely lacking in the Park Heights community. Unseen to the naked eye but critically important, the proposal will also improve the infrastructure in and around Pimlico, replacing sewer and water pipes that date back 150 years. No developer could be expected to invest without such improvements, and no neighborhood can raise itself without them. Adjunct is a plan for desperately needed new low- and middle-income housing in the heart of the Park Heights community. Such housing will be far more appealing to purchasers knowing that Pimlico Race Course will no longer sit as a hulking dark property for 48 weeks of the year, but will instead be a vibrant community asset year-round. Bottom line: The success of this plan will reverberate throughout the entire area.

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The Pimlico plan is one that has been long overdue and sorely needed. All members of the community should get squarely behind it. In this case, a rising tide lifts all boats, and we must work together to make this proposal a benefit for all. It is the best chance for Park Heights and the entire city of Baltimore to show its better self to the world. Opportunities like this do not come along often. The time is now. Let’s do it. Go big or go home!

Larry E. Jennings, Baltimore

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