You can call her Professor Smith now.
Janet Marie Smith, the Baltimore resident, and nationally prominent urban designer and planner who played a key role in shaping Oriole Park at Camden Yards and other major league ballparks, has gone back to school.
Smith is a visiting professor this fall at Yale University’s School of Architecture, along with Frank Gehry and four other luminaries from the design world. As the Edward P. Bass Distinguished Visiting Fellow for fall 2017, she is living in New Haven part of the semester and teaching a graduate-level design studio along with Yale architecture professor Alan Plattus.
Many architects teach at design schools, but this is the first time Smith has done so. She gave her first Yale lecture on August 30 on her favorite subject: “Urban Ballparks: Hits, Misses, and Errors.”
“It will be interesting to be back on a college campus,” she said shortly before classes started. “I think it will be a lot of fun.”
Smith explained that Yale has a practice of inviting developers to spend time in the design studio so students can understand how they approach a building design. In her case, Smith offers a different perspective not only as a design professional but as a female executive in the male-dominated sport of baseball.
“They want students to work on real world problems” and realize “there are a lot of things you can do with your degree,” she said. “I am not a conventional developer, but that is part of the point.”
Smith began her planning career working on the Battery Park City development in New York City and the Pershing Square revitalization in Los Angeles. Her first baseball-oriented job was with the Baltimore Orioles, just as the team was planning a new ballpark in Camden Yards.
Working with then-team executive Larry Lucchino, she resisted a cookie cutter approach and pushed for a new-fangled, old fashioned ballpark close to the heart of the city, with the long B&O Warehouse behind right field and ornithologically correct Oriole weather vanes on the scoreboard. Its success helped trigger a wave of back-to-the-city ballparks around the country.
“Much of the contextual planning approaches of Battery Park City are evident in our attitudes about Oriole Park and how it fits into the neighborhood,” she said. “Larry Lucchino’s dream of an old-fashioned ballpark was in perfect alignment with this state-selected site.”
Smith then moved to Atlanta, where she worked with Stan Kasten, then president and CEO of the Braves and the Hawks, as the
Braves transformed the 1996 Olympics stadium to a new home and the Hawks built a new arena. She was a consultant with the San Diego Padres, returned to Baltimore to oversee certain improvements to Oriole Park and the renovation of the Orioles training facility in Sarasota, and then joined the Boston Red Sox to refurbish Fenway Park, where she added seats and made other changes without wiping away its historic character.
Since 2012, she has been the senior vice president of planning and development for the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom she is overseeing a $175 million, multiyear refurbishment of Dodger Stadium. All the while she has kept her primary residence in Baltimore and raised three children with her husband, former Enterprise CEO Bart Harvey.
Rather than moving from city to city and uprooting her family each time, she chose to stay in Baltimore and “commute” to work for the various teams that hire her. That’s a lot of frequent flier miles.
Smith typically works for the baseball team that has the construction project, representing the team’s interests in matters involving design and construction. Her influence can be seen from the dimensions of the playing field to the graphics along the concourses to the sightlines from the seats. She consistently has pushed for urban ballparks to be catalysts for economic development and revitalization of the surrounding area. For her accomplishments in a career spanning nearly three decades, SportsBusiness Journal this spring named her one of its Champions in Sports Business for 2017.
Smith said she remains a senior vice president with the Dodgers, which has still more improvements to make on its park. But this fall, she said, there was a window of time in the renovation schedule when there were no major construction projects to monitor. That made it possible for her to spend time teaching at Yale while still working with the Dodgers.
Ever the multi tasker, Professor Smith has taken on another project while she’s spending more time on the East Coast. She is working with a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Boston Red Sox, the Pawtucket (Rhode Island) Red Sox, or PawSox, to help owners evaluate options for a new ballpark. The assignment gives her a chance to work again with Lucchino, who is now chairman and co-owner of the PawSox.
Smith said she talked with Lucchino when he came to Baltimore in June for a 25th-anniversary celebration for contractors and others who helped build Oriole Park, and he told her about the design decisions the PawSox were making. Knowing she would be in New Haven this fall, she and Lucchino worked out an arrangement in which she will spend part of her time from now until December working with the PawSox.
Because of her experience and reputation, Smith’s involvement is a sign to public officials and others that the PawSox are serious about creating a first rate project. She said she aims to come up with recommendations for the PawSox by the end of the year, just as her semester winds down at Yale.