It’s Preservation Month in MD, But Who’s Listening?

by Alice Cherbonnier
     THE INK on the Governor’s proclamation that May is Preservation is barely dry: its message is dear to the hearts of those who want to see their communities redeveloped with sensitivity and an eye to history.
     The irony of the timing is not lost on Doug Armstrong, a leader in the effort to preserve the facades of the Edwardian townhouses at the intersection on Charles and 25th Streets. After months of negotiations, CVS--which had indicated a willingness to consider preserving the facades in its plans--has made it known it will go forward with its original plan to totally demolish the buildings.
     PETITION & BOYCOTT: As of May 3, Armstrong and fellow activist preservationists had gathered 700 signatures on a petition calling for a boycott of CVS if the buildings are torn down.
     “Unfortunately, they seem to think they don’t need a neighborhood business to make a go of it,” he said.
     He’s writing a letter to the Governor, seeking State intervention in the matter.
     And when push comes to bulldozer, he said there will be picketers at the intersection.
     Adrienne Bell, Northern District City Planner, confirmed that CVS will be building from scratch at the site. “It’s a redevelopment by right issue,” she said. “Only permits are needed. They have a right to do this.”
     The building permits for an all-new structure were actually issued in February, though at that time CVS and community representatives were still in the negotiation process. Doug Armstrong now believes CVS and the property owners were only “going through the motions” for public relations purposes.
     PEDESTRIANS, NOT DRIVERS: His concern for preserving the city’s architecture extends beyond Charles Village. “It’s a free for all [if the demolition takes place],” he said. “Every other business corner could suffer the same fate. We’ll have these little cut-up pockets of housing between driver-oriented businesses, and in the end the neighborhood is destroyed. Our communities don’t need to be a driver’s retail business district, they need to be community business centers, with walk-in traffic.”
     He points to the Govans community to show how urban driver-oriented business redevelopment can fail and leave a wasteland of vacant structures. For example, two 7-11s and a relatively new but shut-down Rite-Aid pharmacy, all with large parking lots facing the street, are vacant between 39th Street and Woodbourne Avenue.
     According to Ms. Bell, a final design meeting was held with CVS officials and city officials and architects on April 21 at the offices of the Charles Village Community Benefits District. CVS had already agreed to certain modifications at meetings last fall, such as putting a street entry on the diagonal at the intersection of the streets, mirroring the entries on the other three corners. At this most recent session, CVS agreed to enlarge the windows on the second floor of the building, and to combine two canopies into one to make a more pronounced entrance.
     “We asked them to consider simplifying the tower, making it more in keeping with the historic architecture of Charles Village,” Ms. bell said. “but they will be going ahead with an octagonal tower that will have a clock face.”
     NEWS UPDATE: As this paper went to press, it was learned that the final proposal review to determine the fate of the Memorial Stadium site will be held on Wed., May 5, with the decision to be announced on Thursday by Mayor Schmoke.

Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on May 5, 1999.