Ignored by and large for decades as the Inner Harbor, Fells Point and other harbor locales redeveloped, the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River is now due for a beautification.
Three national landscape architecture firms have submitted proposals, unveiled today, for a planned waterfront park stretching 11 miles of shoreline in Cherry Hill, Westport, Brooklyn, Port Covington and other neighborhoods in view of the Hanover Street Bridge.
Their plans tout beaches, boardwalks, new piers, boathouses and launches, green spaces and gardens dotting the waterfront, connecting communities through a network of parks and trails. View them here.
The idea, said Michael Middleton of SB7, Inc., a nonprofit representing seven neighborhoods due to receive benefits from Port Covington’s TIF-backed redevelopment, is that “South Baltimore will become a jewel for the entire city of Baltimore.”
Frank Lance, president and CEO of the Parks and People Foundation, said at this morning’s announcement the organization held more than 50 private and community meetings with residents from the area about the shoreline redevelopment plan.
They also surveyed more than 20 national landscape architecture firms who’ve done work to this scale, eventually narrowing the pool down to three companies. Each one then sent a team to Baltimore for two days in late April, and have now returned with designs.
They are: James Corner Field Operations of New York, which famously designed Manhattan’s High Line; Hargreaves Jones, another New York-based firm behind New Orleans’ Crescent Park, Penn’s Landing in Philly and other waterfront transformations; and West 8, whose resume boasts projects in Seoul, Toronto, Madrid, Governor’s Island in New York and elsewhere.
The designs can be viewed online, and in-person from today through June 12 at Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Cherry Hill Branch and City Garage in Port Covington.
That piece is important, particularly for those who live in the neighborhoods along the Patapsco. The next two weeks are the public’s chance to weigh in on whether they’d want to visit the park as designed in each concept, whether it will “stand the test of time” and other queries in a brief questionnaire.
A jury will collect those comments, assess the three concepts, interview the creators and make a final recommendation to Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young. Each firm will also get a chance to make a final presentation to a jury.
The winner is due to be unveiled at a public presentation at City Garage next month.
Young noted that the project is made possible in part with funds generated from Horseshoe Casino.
Middle Branch has NOT been ignored in the past. The city has prepared extensive plans, and then mostly violated or failed to implement them. The biggest waterfront projects have been the deadening 3500 space casino garage, the Greyhound bus station that connects to nothing, the failed Westport Turner development, failed Cherry Hill waterfront residential complex, M&T Bank Stadium, and of course, Port Covington. The next project is slated to be the first venture out of suburbia for Top Golf. All of these projects, and the other various connections to the existing surrounding communities, are essentially ignored in these new proposed plans. The City also said they were going to hire Parsons to study a light rail spur into this area but we have heard nothing since.
On the plus side, extending the plans to Brooklyn is a welcome concept and something the city had not done before, but the one consultant who actually addressed this decided to retain the Vulcan Materials Concrete Plant on the Brooklyn waterfront, which is the most egregious land use on the entire waterfront.
All in all, these new plans are a bunch of pretty pictures and little else…
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