Pimlico Rebuilding Project Met With Approval, But Who Will Cover Costs?
A Maryland Stadium Authority study calling for the demolition and rebuilding of Pimlico Race Course has been endorsed by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and would "achieve city officials’ objectives of keeping" the Preakness Stakes in town, while also "making the 110-acre campus accessible during non-racing days," according to Jeff Barker of the BALTIMORE SUN. The plan "proposed replacing the faded Pimlico Race Course with a stylish -- and costly -- track designed to open its amenities to the surrounding community year-round and encourage development in a distressed area of Baltimore." The plan "includes a four-level clubhouse and plaza area called the Palio ... and a new track and infield positioned to open the site further to the public." The plan would be under a "three-year proposal" that would cost $424M, but "no one was prepared to commit to paying such a sizable tab." The study "doesn’t recommend who should pay for Pimlico’s demolition and rebuild, but suggests city and state officials and The Stronach Group ... enter into formal negotiations about the next steps." The Stronach Group "declined to address Thursday whether it would consider a public-private partnership to rebuild Pimlico." Vast sections of Pimlico "now have a patched-together, industrial look." The clubhouse -- where "high-end guests dine -- has not undergone significant renovation since it was constructed decades ago" (BALTIMORE SUN, 12/14). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck writes the project, if "ever completed, would not only dramatically transform Pimlico and the area around it but also change the face of racing in Maryland" (BALTIMORE SUN, 12/14).
ALL ABOUT THE MONEY: Park Heights Renaissance Exec Dir Marcus Pollock, whose nonprofit group formed about five years ago to help guide the redevelopment of the community, said that a "commitment of public funding for the infrastructure work at Pimlico would be a strong first step to moving the wide-ranging plan forward for participation by private developers." He said, "Once that is done, any investors would see that the opportunity is authentic and they would line up to make some offers to get the work done" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 12/13). A BALTIMORE SUN editorial is written under the header, "The Pimlico Plan Can Be Done." The report "does leave two major and inter-related questions: Who is going to pay the $424 million it would cost to make this vision a reality, and does the track’s owner have the slightest interest in expending this kind of effort -- any effort, really -- in keeping the Preakness in Baltimore?" Baltimore has a "compelling reason to invest in the redevelopment of the property, but absent the historical, cultural and economic significance of the Preakness, it’s going to be a much harder sell in the General Assembly, and it’s going to be much less attractive for private developers" (BALTIMORE SUN, 12/14). In Lexington, John Clay writes Pimlico has been a "crumbling mess for some time," as the "charm of the place and the history of the race pales in comparison to the peeling paint, creaky stairs, malfunctioning elevators and holes in the drywall." Clay writes he is not sure spending $424M to "first demolish and then rebuild the place is worth the price tag" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 12/14).