Baltimore is a city with troubles. That can’t be news to anyone. Even for those that live in the suburbs, the problems of Baltimore City have a clear negative impact.
Lately, the city has taken tremendous blows – the former mayor’s issues, attacks by the “orange child” in the White House, and the riots of a few years ago.
For the past few years, we have feared another significant blow – the loss of the Preakness. The owners of Pimlico had threatened to move the race to their track in Laurel. One couldn’t completely fault them. The neighborhood around Pimlico suffers from the worst of urban blight – high crime, drug dealing, unemployment, etc. The glitterati of the world come to the Preakness and the company wanted to give their guests a different experience. The troubles of the neighborhood found their way onto the national broadcasts and certainly didn’t help Baltimore’s reputation.
To move the race out of Baltimore would be a major blow. The Preakness is a shining moment each year that generates $50 million in economic activity. One cannot pay for the positive press a beautiful Pimlico will generate for the city. Investment dollars are often the product of marketplace enthusiasm. If the national public sees Baltimore as a positive up and coming place, the dollars will follow.
The plan is brilliant. Kudos to the forward thinkers that came to a grand and innovative solution. Tap into future casino taxes that otherwise would have expired and been a windfall for the national casino companies, reposition the track to create development parcels, create fields and public use areas for the community, and lower the overall cost by making the seating and amenities flexible to the event.
This plan not only keeps the Preakness in Baltimore, it also creates a cleared development zone around the track to attract new housing, retail, health services, etc. The Pimlico community sadly lacks these services.
Just a few blocks away is the growing Jewish communities along Park Heights Avenue. Improvement in the Pimlico community will be good for the Park Heights community as well.
Sinai Hospital is right on the fringe of the new development areas. At a time when many Jews wonder why Sinai should still be seen as Baltimore’s “Jewish Hospital,” this deal will improve the neighborhoods between Sinai and the Park Heights community. Sinai was in danger of being overwhelmed by the pressure of the socio-economic forces of their catchment area. This will be good for Sinai and the parent LifeBridge.
All in all, this is a great example of what can happen when forward thinkers come forward to lead in a world so often crippled by partisanship and private interests. It is especially pleasing to me for the involvement of my brother, Alan Rifkin, as one of the main creators of the plan. Many years ago, Alan was one of the lead negotiators that brought the Camden Yards complex into reality. Where would Baltimore be without those stadiums today? Alan is as good of a lawyer as we have in Maryland and has a special ability to find common ground for parties with varying interests.
Independent of my family relationship with one of the main negotiators, Jmore emphatically endorses this project and believes that Baltimore will be a better place to live and work as a result.
Scott Rifkin, MD, Publisher