Pim­lico cre­ates a piv­otal op­por­tu­nity

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - COMMENTARY - By Howard Libit, Lisa Bud­low and Ye­huda Neu­berger Howard Libit (hli­[email protected]) and Ye­huda Neu­berger (yneu­[email protected] com) are ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and board pres­i­dent of the Bal­ti­more Jewish Coun­cil, and Lisa Bud­low (lbud­[email protected]­ti­more. org) is CE

The Gen­eral As­sem­bly will take up leg­is­la­tion this ses­sion that rep­re­sents a piv­otal mo­ment for the fu­ture of North­west Bal­ti­more.

The leg­is­la­tion out­lines an ex­pan­sive new plan for Pim­lico race course that could ben­e­fit the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods for years to come. The pack­age to re­de­velop Pim­lico Race Course — care­fully ne­go­ti­ated over many months — en­sures the his­toric Preak­ness Stakes stays in Bal­ti­more, of­fers a clear vi­sion for horse rac­ing’s fu­ture in Mary­land and cre­ates the kind of mo­men­tum that is crit­i­cal for re­de­vel­op­ing and strength­en­ing Cen­tral Park Heights and be­yond.

All of us who are com­mit­ted to the com­mu­ni­ties sur­round­ing Pim­lico have ex­pe­ri­enced many highs and lows over the years when it comes to the tracks. A year ago, when the Gen­eral As­sem­bly de­bated the fu­ture of the Preak­ness in Bal­ti­more, we were gen­uinely con­cerned that the Preak­ness would be leav­ing its long­time Pim­lico home and the 149-year-old race­track prop­erty would be­come va­cant.

To­day, we en­thu­si­as­ti­cally sup­port the plan painstak­ingly worked out by city lead­ers, the own­ers of the Mary­land Jockey Club and horse rac­ing in­dus­try stake­hold­ers.

We are ex­cited to see a vi­sion for a re­designed and re­built track that of­fers mod­ern­ized fa­cil­i­ties for the Preak­ness, as well as ways to use the prop­erty year­round — ath­letic fields in the in­field; spa­ces for com­mu­nity meet­ings, arts fes­ti­vals, con­certs and ban­quets; and parcels for mixed-use com­mer­cial, re­tail and res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment, such as a su­per­mar­ket, fam­ily and se­nior hous­ing, of­fice space and more.

The re­de­vel­op­ment of the Pim­lico site is also an ex­tra­or­di­nary job-cre­at­ing op­por­tu­nity dur­ing the con­struc­tion phase and the many years that fol­low. Res­i­dents through­out Park Heights will ben­e­fit.

The Jewish com­mu­nity has long be­lieved that Pim­lico Race Course and the Preak­ness Stakes play crit­i­cal roles in the eco­nomic vi­tal­ity of both the nearby neigh­bor­hoods of North­west Bal­ti­more and greater Bal­ti­more City, and we have shown our com­mit­ment in many ways. Over the last 30 plus years, tens of mil­lions of public, pri­vate and foun­da­tion dol­lars have been in­vested in strength­en­ing the neigh­bor­hoods of Park Heights.

Less than a mile away from Pim­lico, The As­so­ci­ated: Jewish Com­mu­nity Fed­er­a­tion of Bal­ti­more main­tains mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lars of in­vest­ment in a Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter, as well as of­fices for such agen­cies, in­clud­ing Jewish Com­mu­nity Ser­vices, the Bal­ti­more Jewish Coun­cil and CHAI (Com­pre­hen­sive Hous­ing As­sis­tance, Inc.).

Also within a mile of the track, CHAI owns and op­er­ates a num­ber of apart­ment build­ings for se­niors, and has mil­lions of dol­lars on loan to home­own­ers who pur­chased and/or ren­o­vated their houses with CHAI’s as­sis­tance. CHAI is in­vest­ing in main­tain­ing and de­vel­op­ing hous­ing stock in the area through its Se­nior Home Re­pair, Hous­ing Up­grades to Ben­e­fit Se­niors and ac­qui­si­tion and re­hab pro­grams. CHAI’s com­mit­ment to the area can be seen both north and south of North­ern Park­way, and its work demon­strates the im­por­tance of in­vest­ing in the whole com­mu­nity sur­round­ing Pim­lico.

The Pim­lico site’s po­ten­tial is en­hanced by the nearby pres­ence of one of Bal­ti­more’s ded­i­cated and proven an­chor in­sti­tu­tions, LifeBridge Health. LifeBridge has re­peat­edly demon­strated its com­mit­ment to Park Heights and North­west Bal­ti­more through its in­vest­ments in health care ac­cess, work­force de­vel­op­ment and neigh­bor­hood re­de­vel­op­ment. In the com­ing years, LifeBridge plans to ex­pand its Si­nai Hos­pi­tal cam­pus through con­struc­tion of new build­ings on the park­ing lots it owns on the east side of the track.

The leg­isla­tive pro­posal to re­de­velop Pim­lico will only be en­hanced by the par­tic­i­pa­tion of our Jewish non­profit com­mu­nity in­sti­tu­tions and an an­chor health care in­sti­tu­tion like LifeBridge, work­ing side by side with part­ners such as Park Heights Re­nais­sance, CHAI and the North­west Bal­ti­more Part­ner­ship. And we be­lieve that what hap­pens at Pim­lico will help at­tract the re­de­vel­op­ment and rein­vest­ment needed for all of greater Park Heights — reinforcin­g and adding en­ergy to ef­forts al­ready in the works.

Leg­isla­tive ac­tion is the only way to en­sure that Park Heights gets the in­vest­ment it de­serves. The plan re­lies on ex­ist­ing tax rev­enues from Mary­land’s casi­nos that al­ready go to the rac­ing in­dus­try — but law­mak­ers must agree to ex­tend the life­time of those taxes and com­mit to us­ing them to fi­nance the in­vest­ment at both Pim­lico and Lau­rel Park.

We are aware that the 90 days of the leg­isla­tive ses­sion will not be easy. It’s likely that dif­fer­ent groups will raise ob­jec­tions, and com­pro­mise is cer­tain to be re­quired by all of us.

But ev­ery­one who cares about North­west Bal­ti­more must keep in mind that this is about more than just rac­ing. It’s about com­mu­nity in­vest­ment. This plan will help en­sure that Pim­lico — and the com­mu­ni­ties of Park Heights — will be a vi­tal part of the fu­ture of Bal­ti­more City for many decades to come.

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