- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) — Walter Sondheim Jr., whose efforts to transform the Inner Harbor helped revitalize the city, has mentally demolished the Jones Falls Expressway many times.

Seeing it demolished for real is one of his longest-standing wishes.

“Taking it down presents an opportunity for all kinds of things,” Mr. Sondheim said.

Developer Jerry Gottesman, chairman of Edison Property, also sees opportunity, particularly with roughly 10 acres of mostly parking lots and warehouses just east of the expressway, so he hired an architect and a former Baltimore planner to explore the possibilities.

The redevelopment plan would involve demolishing an elevated section of the expressway, from the Guilford Avenue exit to its end at Fayette Street.

With great fanfare, city officials broke ground in 1958 for the expressway, also known as the JFX or Interstate 83. The $70 million, six-lane road was designed to speed motorists on a 7-mile stretch through town, then onto Interstate 95 south of the city. However, the I-95 connector was scrapped in the 1980s when preservationists argued it would destroy Fells Point.

Matt Bell, one of the planners commissioned by Edison Property, has called the expressway a “fragment,” an “anachronism” and a “dinosaur.”

“It’s something that never should have been built,” Mr. Bell said.

He and former city planner Alfred W. Barry III say: Get rid of it.

Mr. Bell estimates about 60 acres are available for redevelopment, including Edison’s 10 and property mainly owned by the city and the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

Mayor Martin O’Malley said he has not heard about the plan so he cannot comment.

City Planning Director Otis Rolley III said he liked the proposal, but is concerned about the costs.

“I think it could help,” Mr. Rolley said. “I just think that logistically and financially, we have other priorities that make more sense for the city. I couldn’t in good conscience recommend it.”

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