McKeldin Square is getting a new common area dedicated to its namesake.
A circular stone terrace with a central misting fountain will be installed in the park sandwiched between Pratt and Light streets near Harborplace, and a side wall will honor the man for whom the entire plaza is named, Gov. Theodore McKeldin.
A paved pathway will wind around the perimeter of the fountain, featuring uplighting that changes colors at night, to offer a slightly elevated view.
The new feature, designed by landscape architecture firm Mahan Rykiel Associates, will be built with $500,000 from the state and $900,000 from the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.
Kirby Fowler, president of the nonprofit representing the city’s central business district, said past iterations of the park didn’t offer much information on McKeldin, who served as governor from 1951-1959 and mayor of Baltimore for two terms from 1943-1947 and 1963-1967.
“For decades people have walked in McKeldin Plaza and known nothing of his efforts to develop the Inner Harbor and his work to desegregate the schools,” Fowler said.
A wall around a portion of the outer edge of the terrace will be inscribed with McKeldin’s full name, birth year and death year, the dates of his terms in office and the inscriptions: “A Visionary for Development for Baltimore City” and “An Advocate for Equality of Baltimore’s Citizens.”
Closer to Pratt Street, perforated metal signs will detail the politician’s legacy and the history of the plaza, a designated free-speech zone.
Fowler said he hopes the project will be complete by the end of the year. The stone for the new water feature and the surrounding wall and pathway has already been cut and will be shipped from China in about a week.
In 2016, with the backing of the Downtown Partnership, crews tore down the large, brutalist McKeldin Fountain and a series of skywalks that occupied the space to make way for a park with grass and trees. The new open park drew people in, but not as many as the organization had hoped, Fowler said.
“A water feature and a memorial wall, we believe, will do that.”
While many saw the fountain as an eyesore, it did have a staunch group of supporters who made a last-ditch effort to save the cement structure, which opened in 1982, before it met the wrecking ball.
Speaking earlier this week, Fowler said the fountain was expensive to maintain, and that at 16 feet tall, it loomed over the plaza.
“No one designs park spaces like that anymore,” he said. “You have park spaces where you can see from one end to the other.”
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