Possible New MARC Station for Camden Yards; A bike corral for M&T Bank Stadium; Ambassador Theater up for landmark designation; and more

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MARC Station
MARC Station. Photo by Ed Gunts.

When it opened in the early 1990s, the MARC train station at Camden Yards was supposed to be a temporary structure – prefab trailers topped by a space frame roof, assembled in time for the 1992 opening of Oriole Park. But nearly 25 years later, it’s still in use.

Now state officials are exploring options for replacing the utilitarian structure with a permanent train station that would be more consistent in quality with the rest of Baltimore’s Camden Yards sports complex.

Michael Frenz, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, told his board this month that representatives from his agency would be meeting with Maryland Transit Administration designers and engineers to discuss ideas for replacing the station. He noted that the current station was never intended to last as long as it has.

“For a long time, we didn’t necessarily feel it reflected the aesthetic of our property,” he said.

The meeting took place June 9. Michael Helta, project development manager with the MTA, confirmed that transportation planners are “brainstorming” about ways to replace the Camden Yards MARC station, what a new station might look like, what materials it might be made of, and how to fund it.

Helta said the MTA may have a chance to apply for funds to replace the station and wants to have an up-to-date plan. For now, he said, design work is being carried out in-house and there is no cost estimate yet. He said a timetable for construction would be contingent on the availability of funding.

“We’re looking at a replacement for that station,” he said. “It’s not news to anybody that it’s a temporary structure that’s long overdue for an upgrade.”

Helta said the MTA wanted to consult with the stadium authority because “it’s their campus…If we happen upon some funding, we want to have a coordinated approach.”

The station is the northern terminus of the Camden line of the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) rail service between Baltimore and Washington, D. C.

Helta said the station serves several hundred MARC riders on weekdays and that the replacement station most likely would be built where the current station is, just east of the long brick B & O Warehouse and south of historic Camden Station.

Retro station already designed for Camden Yards

As officials look for ideas, the state already has a preliminary design for a Camden Yards MARC station that never got built.

As part of a master plan for the 85-acre Camden Yards sports district, Cho Benn Holback + Associates of Baltimore designed a traditional looking brick train station with a pitched green roof to echo the “retro” appearance of Oriole Park.  It was one of the few elements of the master plan that was never realized.

train station model MARC
Train station model

A scale model of the unbuilt train station was on display for years at the Sports Legends museum inside Camden Station, for which Cho Benn Holback was the restoration architect. The scale model, which also shows Oriole Park and Camden Station, was on loan from the stadium authority.

When Sports Legends closed last October, the scale model was moved to the stadium authority offices, where it is on display. Seeing the model of a permanent train station may have reminded state officials that the current station isn’t what was supposed to be there.

David Benn, a principal of Cho Benn Holback, said he would be pleased if the MTA constructed the station his office designed.  But Helta said the state isn’t likely to go back to the 1992 plan. He said conditions have changed over the past 25 years and the MTA wants to look at different options.

“That was 30 years ago” when the traditional looking stadium was designed, he said. “Tines have changed…Why not give it a fresh look?

Jan Hardesty, the public information officer for the stadium authority, attended the June 9 meeting and said there was a good discussion about design issues.

It was a “fruitful exchange of ideas, particularly pertaining to maintaining the traditional feel of the Warehouse and ballpark,” she said.

“Corral” provides more space for bikes in Camden Yards

bike corral at Camden Yards

While state officials explore plans for a new MARC station for Camden Yards, the stadium authority already has increased accommodations for stadium goers arriving by bike.

The stadium authority has created a “bicycle corral” south of M&T Stadium, where people can leave their bikes during games. It has space for several dozen bikes.

“We inherited a few racks from the MARC station, which were quickly filled on Game Day,” she said. “So, with the help of the City, we just completed a bicycle “corral” on the south side of the stadium.

“This should be particularly popular because it is located right on the Gwynns Falls Trail, adjacent to the guard station…at the head of the ramp. Only the players can park closer.  Traveling by bike, a fan can be at the Purple Patio in Federal Hill before most of the crowd can click on their seatbelts.”

Ambassador Theater considered for landmark designation

The Ambassador Theater, a sister to Baltimore’s Senator Theater, may become Baltimore’s newest landmark. The city’s Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, June 14, at 1 p.m. at 417 E. Fayette Street to determine whether to recommend that the 1935 theater be added to the city’s landmark list.

Located at 4604 Liberty Heights Avenue and designed by John Zink, the same architect as the Senator on York Road, the Art Deco-style theater is vacant and in need of renovation. Its interior was damaged in a 2012 fire. Landmark designation would mean that any plans to change the exterior would have to be approved by CHAP, to make sure the comply with city standards for historic preservation.

Charles Theater to present Multiple Maniacs

The Charles Theater at 1711 North Charles Street will benefit from the release of Multiple Maniacs, the 1970 John Waters film that has been restored and is getting a theatrical release starting June 17 in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and on August 5 in New York City.

In Baltimore, it will be shown at the Charles Theater on September 10, 12 and 15 as part of the theater’s summer revivals series. Following the theatrical release of the film, the Criterion Collection is expected to offer DVD and Blu-ray versions for the first time.

People and places

925 S. Charles Street is the new site for Scrap B-More, a non-profit organization that encourages people to reuse materials that otherwise would be thrown away…Developers Tom and Toby Bozzuto were named Industrialists of the Year by the Baltimore Museum of Industry…Owners of The Elephant restaurant under construction at 924 N. Charles Street (formerly the Brass Elephant) say they have received their occupancy permit and are about 30 days away from opening…

Yesterday was the last day in business for JoJoSouth record shop at 718 West 36th Street in  Hampden…William Marcus, a senior member of the Baltimore City Police Department command staff, has left city government and joined the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore as its Vice President of Safety Programs. He replaces Eugene (Tom) Yeager, who is retiring.

Ed Gunts

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  1. It’s too bad no serious consideration was ever given to the continued use of Camden Station for its original, intended purpose.

    Now, we read of a desire shared by some to establish a new railway terminal structure “consistent in quality with the rest of…Camden Yards,” complementing the “‘retro’ appearance of Oriole Park.”

    If that is sincerely the goal, what could be better (or more logical, or cost effective) than the restoration of service to the existing building?

    Surely, you can’t beat that for “traditional”!

    Garl B.Latham

  2. While with JMA, I wrote a report for the Maryland Stadium Authority dated December 17, 2010. Here, I identified ten opportunities to enliven Camden Station, including the MARC Station. Perhaps this is a good time to consider implementing them.

    The 5th of the 10 recommendations addressed the MARC station. It notes that the present station is not appealing to commuters. The passengers come day in and day out, year round and there is nothing to make their routine more pleasant- not even a place to get juice or coffee to wake up. Certainly a contrast to the comforts of predecessor trains of the B&O such as the Royal Blue or the Capitol Limited.

    It Is very important to understand the railroad history of this site. (As a teenager, my brother and I used to trespass here to see the trains.)

    As in the case with the President Street Station, what we call Camden Station is only the head house portion. The majority of the station footprint was comprised of the platforms with the shed roofs to protect passengers boarding trains from the weather. If you look closely at the south facing brick wall of the station, you can still see the evidence of the adjoining structures. The present MARC station sits squarely within the old passenger platform area. Therefore, to build a brick building that looks like an old fashioned train station confuses the history of this important site. Luckily, we have some good records and photographs of the historic structures that were either torn down or burnt down some which were designed by E.F.Baldwin.

    It is important to understand the national historical significance of this site, now paved over with asphalt with only a marker in a forlorn location. Among the important dates on this site are:

    The Pratt Street Riots of April 19, 1861
    The Great Railroad Strike Riot of July 20, 1877
    The Baltimore Protest for Freddie Grey of April 25, 2015

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