City to move forward with development of Ripken field in Park Heights

Reinvestment and redevelopment of the distressed Park Heights neighborhood will continue under a funding agreement Baltimore's financial oversight panel approved Wednesday with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

The foundation, named for the late Orioles manager, will contribute $600,000 to develop a youth ballpark near Pimlico Race Course, one of multiple planned fields it's helping to create for at-risk children and teens in Maryland and across the country.

The Board of Estimates agreed — over the protest of Arnold M. Jolivet, managing director of the Maryland Minority Contractors Association — to approve the agreement without opening the project up to competitive bids.

City lawyers said the foundation made their donation contingent on the hiring of its selected contractor, Henry H. Lewis Contractors. The legal staff said the contractor is expected to charge less for construction than the city estimates anticipated.

Under the agreement, the city is expected to provide $1.4 million, including $700,000 from slots revenue and $700,000 from a state grant for the development of open space.

Thomas Stosur, director of planning for the city, said the ballpark — a multipurpose, synthetic turf field — is one aspect of the master plan for Park Heights that also includes upgrades to the C.C. Jackson Recreation Center and the addition of a basketball court and playground.

Overall, the redevelopment plan includes about 60 acres. The first phase of the 7-acre park is expected to be finished by fall 2014, including the Ripken field, playground, basketball court and walking paths.

Stosur said the community has waited for years to see the benefits of the promised slots revenue, which the state began to collect in 2011.

"It's been no doubt a long journey and lots of people have been more than patient," he said.

Stosur said construction of the Ripken field is in the site preparation phase.

The Ripken Foundation will oversee the project. The city will provide the $1.4 million on a reimbursement basis.

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