Monday, September 29, 2014

Revisiting Old Freeway Attempts III:The Outer Beltway

As I end my series on revisiting old Freeway Attempts, I focus this entire post on just one proposed road; The Outer Beltway. Yes, believe it or not I-695 was only supposed to be the "Inner Beltway" with another loop that catches more outer ring suburbs to follow. Obviously the Outer Beltway was never completed in fact it was barely started. The only part of the Outer Beltway that exists today is Route 100 which is the southern spur of the un-built Interstate. I bet you didn't know that. Then of course if you look at a map you can see that in fact Route 100 does serve as an "outer" alternative to the current Beltway at least in the southern suburbs.

When Route 100 was built in phases starting in the 1970s until its completion in 1999, it was never meant to be an entire loop. In fact, the reason that Route 100 is located where it is is because the land had been reserved for the Outer Beltway and all the State wanted to build was a highway link between Route 29 in Ellicott City and Mountain Road in Pasadena to ease congestion in rapidly growing areas of Howard and Anne Arundel Counties. Route 100 did just that except that it opened the floodgates for more growth and sprawl which put congestion of roads back to where it was before Route 100 and then some. Given that Route 100 follows the southern right of way set aside for the Outer Beltway, hows about we extend it in both directions to complete the loop and give Baltimore two Beltways just the Eisenhower Era Interstate Planners had intended. 

The moniker of Route 100 will be dropped in place of the more fitting I-595. I realize this is the unsigned name of a stretch of Route 301/50 but I think our new Outer Beltway is more deserving of this noble title. We will start our journey at the eastern end of Route 100(now known as I-595) in Pasadena. Route 100/I-595 ends at Mountain Road currently but it will be extended as I-595 east of Mountain Road which will have a grade separated interchange as will all of its crossings. It will continue eastbound before crossing the bay between Bodkin Creek and Boyd Pond. This long bridge will do something unheard of; connect Pasadena in Anne Arundel County and Joppatowne in Harford County.  

This bridge, which gives all other bridges a run for their money, will end at Canal Creek in just south of Joppatowne. Extending Eastern Avenue to meet I-595 should be considered. There is some relatively unused land here which I-595 can use for interchanges with Route 40 (Pulaski Highway), Philadelphia Road, and I-95. It may be a good idea for I-95 and Philadelphia Road to share ramps to one another a la Park Heights Avenue and Stevenson Road given how closely parallel the roads run in between each other. After its interchange with I-95, I-595 will meet up with Route 1 (Belair Road) in between Perry Hall and Kingsville. After unceremonious interchanges with Harford Road, Glen Arm Road, and Manor Road, I-595 will cross Loch Raven Reservoir. After this, things begin to get interesting.

In Central and western Baltimore County, there are a few roads that already exist that I've noticed could be spurs for the Outer Beltway. After an interchange with Route 146 (Dulaney Valley Road) I-595 will follow what is now Old Bosley Road albeit much wider and up to Interstate Standards after which it will roughly follow Bosley Road and finally Warren Road. Warren Road was one of the Roads I had considered to be a spur for the Outer Beltway therefore I'm using it as such. Given the Residential nature of these Neighborhoods, there will be no interchanges until meeting Route 45 (York Road) The existing at-grade intersection will be upgraded to a clover leaf and Warren Road, currently a two to four lane road separated by a median strip will become I-595, a six lane divided Interstate. 

West of York Road I-595, the continue to follow the Warren Road Route. Here, it will be much easier to transform the road as it has more of a highway-esque layout. Warren Road ends with an interchange with I-83. I-595 will continue on west of I-83. It will meet Route 25 (Falls Road) and take the path of least resistance through the Greenspring Valley with interchanges at Greenpsring Avenue and Park Heights Avenue just below the Caves Valley Country Club.

I have setup I-595 to be level with Owings Mills Boulevard right where it veers north and follows the CSX lines. Why? Because I believe Owings Mills Boulevard between Winans Road and Stevenson University is the other "spur" of the Outer Beltway is. Owings Mills Boulevard has an interchange with I-795 here and its intersections with Reisterstown Road, Red Run Boulevard, Lakeside, Boulevard, Lyons Mill Road, and Winans Road will be upgraded to grade separated interchanges. Other smaller streets that meet up with Owings Mills Boulevard/I-595 will have bridges over or under them without access. The planned extension of Owings Mills Boulevard to Liberty Road will also be a grade separated interchange. 

Once I-595 has crossed Liberty Road, it will take curvy path of least resistance. That simply means that it will curve around to ensure the fewest number of homes have to be destroyed to construct it. Eventually it will cross into Howard County and will cross Route 99 at its current signalized intersection with Route 29. Route 29 between Route 100 and its northern terminus at Route 99 has served as a southwestern spur of the Outer Beltway (I-595) Route 29 between Route 99 and Route 100 will be re-dubbed I-595 and the traffic light intersection at Route 99 will be upgraded to a grade separated interchange. I-595, once it has completed its short stint using the current Route 29 will make an easterly turn back to the current Route 100. At this point the circle is complete.

Now that I have completed my entire series on un-built Freeways in Baltimore I bet I know what you're thinking; That was stupid. Yes, yes it was however we must revisit these failed attempts now and then to remind ourselves why they failed in the first place so history isn't doomed to repeat itself. Building anyone of these Freeways would be a waste of Tax Payer Money, have to unnecessarily relocate hundreds if not thousands, will ruin sought after park lands, will pollute the air as well as the water, and will do nothing to actually reduce roadway congestion.

By researching and writing this series, I was reminded time and time again that if Baltimore wants reduce congestion on its highways it needs to look in the future not the past. This series looked in the past and showed how detrimental it would be. Rather than investing in expanding our highways, Baltimore and surrounding areas must look at upgrading Mass Transit in particularly Rail Transit and shuttle buses that go to and from Rail Transit stops. Park & Ride lots at the end of transit lines are a must as is TOD so that Residents can get rid of their cars. The successful Cities in the Country have world class transit systems and if Baltimore wants to become one, it must get one of its own NOT build more highways.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Revisiting Old Freeway Attempts Part II: The I-695 Connections

Think I was done with the Old Freeway Attempts Series? Think again. This time the proposed freeways I'm writing about would have crossed I-695 in some way shape or form. This post will also cover why the east side of I-695 is not a perfect circle and is filled with many sharp twists and turns. The I-695 we all know and love today was pieced together by two failed freeway attempts on its east side.  

The first freeway I'm introducing is I-795 aka the Northwest Expressway. The Northwest Expressway was built in the 1980s in conjunction with the Subway Line that runs parallel to it. It also contains a direct exit ramp to Owings Mills Mall which has failed miserably. There are plans to extend the expressway northbound into Carroll County in the future as traffic along Reisterstown Road and Liberty Road continues to increase as well as plans in the foreseeable future to build an interchange at Dolfield Boulevard. 

I-795's southbound terminus is at I-695. It wasn't supposed to be. Had the planners of I-795 had their way, it would have continued southbound cutting the Sudbrook and Lochearn communities in half before entering the City and ending is status of a Freeway at Wabash Avenue. Wabash Avenue runs through northwest Baltimore City as an at-grade Boulevard parallel to the Subway tracks just like I-795. The Subway tracks that run through Sudbrook and Lochearn tell us the exact alignment of the would be I-795 link. Although this may have provided traffic relief to Liberty Road and Reisterstown Road inside I-695, I don't see how disrupting the communities of Sudbrook and Lochearn is a good enough trade off.

Next we come to the Perring Freeway, hey wait a minute! Isn't there a Perring Parkway already in existence? Why yes there is. The Perring Freeway would have followed the same right of way as the current Perring Parkway does however it wouldn't have traffic lights and would have contained grade-separated interchanges like what can be found at Northern Parkway and Perring Parkway. Very little can information can be found on the Perring Freeway such as how long it would have been a freeway (perhaps when it corsses the Alameda?) or if it would continue as a freeway above I-695 (too densely developed to do so now.) 

My guess is that land was bought for interchanges for the Perring Freeway but funding wasn't provided to build them. The end product was the Perring Parkway we have come to know. Its undeveloped landscape is likely the land that would have been used for the Freeway. Just like the I-795 extension in the City, I see no reason why this should plan should be resurrected.

Next we come to I-695 itself. Remember when I said that a couple of failed Freeway attempts make up the east side of I-695? Well this begs the question; What was the proposed alignment of I-695? Today's Southeastern Boulevard was the original alignment for I-695. It would have used that alignment rather than having to take that tight awkward ramp to stay on the road. Southeastern Boulevard actually forms a perfect circle when teamed with Back River Neck Road where it could rejoin the current I-695 alignment in Edgemere just northeast of its interchange with North Point Boulevard. Unlike every other failed freeway attempt, I would like to see this happen. I was never a fan of I-695's eastern alignment and upgrading Southeastern Boulevard and Back River Neck Road to interstate would allow that to happen. Now, what IS the eastern side of I-695?

The eastern side of I-695 is composed of two failed freeway attempts. First is the Windlass Freeway. When built in its entirety, the Windlass Freeway would have started as an extension of Mroavia Road at I-95 (ghost ramps are present here) and would have run parallel to Pulaski Highway and Eastern Avenue. Right where I-695 makes that VERY sharp turn is the considered the southern end of the built section of the Windlass Freeway. The northern end is at the interchange of I-695 and Southeastern Boulevard. This appears to be a hurried attempt of an afterthought to complete I-695 when the proposed alignment and the Windlass Freeway were scrapped. That small portion of I-695 is still referred to ass the Windlass Freeway on some maps. In the midst of the very sharp turn on I-695/The Windlass Freeway, there are ghost ramps present to indicate where the Windlass Freeway would have continued on to meet Moravia Road at I-95. The Freeway was supposed to have ended northbound at what is now White Marsh Boulevard. 

If Southeastern Boulevard were to become I-695's east side, then the Windlass Freeway could be built in between Moravia Road and the current I-695/Windlass Freeway without much disruption. It would simply run in between I-95 and I-695 providing relief to the congestion in the area. 

The second failed freeway attempt that makes up the eastern side of I-695, is known as the Patapsco Freeway. This runs south of the sharp turn on the Windlass Freeway portion and stops at the Back River Neck. The Patapsco Freeway could have made for a northern alternative to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge if extended past I-695. There's no telling how long the Patapsco Freeway could then run once on the eastern shore. Given how sparse the land is it could go all the way to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry in Delaware. The Ghost ramps at the sharp turn on I-695 are where the Windlass Freeway and Patapsco Freeway were to intersect, not knowing at the time they would become the same road. Like the Windlass Freeway, the Patapsco Freeway portion of I-695 is still labeled as such on some maps.

This ends another segment on my series of old freeway attempts. I'm sure I surprised some of you by my wanting to realign the eastern side of I-695 to the current alignment of Southeastern Boulevard and extend the Windlass Freeway portion to Moravia Road at I-95. The Patapsco Freeway also makes sense as a northern alternative to the bay bridge. The series isn't over yet. What will my finale reveal? Stay tuned to find out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Revisiting Old Freeway Attempts Part I: The I-95 Connections

If you take a look at maps of Baltimore and surrounding areas, you will see a plethora of Freeway plans that never came to fruition. The reasons why are endless, the three biggest were; Neighborhood protests, lack of funding, and environmental concerns. Another reason was that in some cases, building freeways in that particular area or region was flat out a bad idea. Some of these un-built freeways were good ideas and as such, I wonder if somehow several billion dollars magically appeared if revisiting these old Freeways would be a good idea. I will examine all freeway attempts even the outlandishly bad ones.

During the era that Eisenhower signed the Interstate System into law, cities across the Country were literally being torn apart to make way for these new Freeways. It was thought that people would ditch cities in favor of suburbs and cities would be nothing more than slums and a Central Business District. In a lot of cases this is exactly what happened and some blame the intrusive freeways for speeding up the process. Baltimore actually got off light with its freeways but the original plans were much and grandiose.

First there was I-70. Ever notice how weird it was that it just abruptly stops at the Park & Ride lot at the City/County line just east of I-695? Well, it wasn't supposed to. I-70 was supposed to continue on into the City plowing through Leakin Park at the cost of Baltimore's largest and greenest park, have an exit onto Hilton Parkway, have a spur that leads directly into Downtown (more about that later) where it finally ends at a seemingly more appropriate location at I-95 between Caton Avenue and Washington Boulevard. Ghost ramps along I-95 tell this story. City Residents put up a fight to save Leakin Park before this segment of I-70 was built and were successful in saving Leakin Park.

Now should we revisit this and try again to extend I-70 to meet I-95? Absolutely not. As far as the environmental concerns go, nothing has changed. In fact, the addition of the Gywnn's Falls Trail has only added to the notion that Leakin Park is not to be disturbed. 

Next we come to I-170 aka the Road to Nowhere. Highway Planners were so sure that funding would be secured for the I-70 extension to I-95 and that the Community at large would support it that they began building the spur to Downtown known as I-170. Since I-70 wouldn't hit Downtown itself, planners decided to build a small three mile spur that would connect I-70 to Downtown. Roughly one mile and a half miles of the spur was constructed at the expense of hundreds of Residents between Franklin and Mulberry St. before the plan to connect I-70 to I-95 was canceled. The result was and is a broken Community that has yet to recover from this invasive freeway project. Planners tried to make it worth something by connecting I-170 to I-95 without the I-70 connection. This would be known as I-595. This also didn't pass and I-170 became the Road to Nowhere.

Again the question comes, should we try to revive this? Again the answer is no. Like I had before, the Citizens of Baltimore don't want to have Leakin Park destroyed and in order to connect the I-170 spur, more homes in West Baltimore would have be destroyed further ruining the Community. It should also be noted that City Planners want to dismantle the portion of "freeway" that was already built to build a mixed use TOD Community in its place to spur the revitalization of West Baltimore.

Another Freeway that was supposed to connect to I-95 was I-83 aka the JFX. The reason it didn't continue as a freeway past Fayette St. was because of Community backlash, just like the extension of I-70 that never came to fruition. I-83 was supposed to remain a freeway going into what is now Inner Harbor East through Fells Point and finally along Boston St. in Canton. it would connect to I-95 near the O'Donnell St./Boston St. Interchange as evidenced by Ghost Ramps. Back then, Inner Harbor East was nothing more than parking lots and industrial ruins and Fells Point and Canton had gone into decline. One big reason for their turn around was the idea that the I-83 extension would destroy their historic Row Homes and take the fabric of the Neighborhood with it a la the Road to Nowhere. 

Should we revive this attempt? Fortunately that would be impossible. Gievn how much redevelopment has gone on in the area, building a Freeway in the middle of it would erode all the progress that was made in Southeast Baltimore and turn it into the Road to Nowhere Corridor. If that's not reason enough to not revive the I-83 extension I don't know what is. I should also mention that there are currently plans to turn I-83 from Fayette St. to Preston St. into an at-grade Boulevard in an effort to connect Downtown to East Baltimore and spur more redevelopment. It seems that Baltimore wants to reduce its Freeways rather than add to them.

That's about it for the I-95 connections. This will be a three part series due to the wealth of abandoned Freeway ideas the Baltimore area has. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A More Walkable College Town

In addition to being a City of 622,000 Residents, Baltimore is also what I call a College Town. Granted a College or University isn't all Baltimore has to offer like a traditional College Town ie Salsbury, Frostburg, etc. However Baltimore is home to numerous Colleges and Universities and that particular attribute of the City is not lost on me. Therefore, I have decided to end my series on walkability by purposing a new line on the Charm City Circulator that connects a good number of the City Colleges and plenty of other landmarks along the way not only to each other, but to Downtown, other circulator lines, as well as both the Light Rail and Metro and eventually the Red Line, Yellow Line, and Charles St. Trolley once they're built. So without further ado, I give you a more walkable College Town.
As I have done in previous posts regarding additional Charm City Circulator Lines, I have started their route Downtown. This time the "College Route" as I have named it, will start at Paca St. and Lombard St. Here it will connect to the Orange Line of the Circulator which runs from Hollins Market to Inner Harbor East. Paca and Lombard  is also the stop to be used for University of Maryland Baltimore, University of Maryland Medical Center, Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, and the Horseshoe Casino. 
Traveling up Paca St. the Circulator will then stop at Lexington Market which is set to receive Millions in renovation dollars. This stop will also be a quick walk to both the Metro and the Light Rail. Heading up Paca St. the line will stop at St. Mary's Park in Baltimore's Historic Seton Hill Neighborhood. Rather than continue to where Paca St. becomes McColloh St., it will turn up Madison St. and make a left on Howard St. for a stop at Univeristy of Maryland Midtown Medical Center (nee Maryland General Hospital.) When the Circulator is following Howard St. it will use the same stops that the Light Rail has (Cultural Center and Mount Royal) for easy transfers.
At Mount Royal Avenue the line will turn left for a stop at East Bolton Hill/MICA. Since Mount Royal Avenue stops at North Avenue, it will turn left and follow North Avenue until it stops at Eutaw Place for a North Bolton Hill/ Reservoir Hill Stop. It will continue northbound up Eutaw Place for Reservoir Hill which is quickly becoming Baltimore's next up and comer. Like I have said in the past, a component of walkability is how welcoming your environment is. With a stop along this new Charm City Circulator Line, I think this will improve Reservoir Hill's walkability not only by offering connectibility but I believe it will lead to further enhancements that will continue to improve the welcoming environment that is Reservoir Hill.
Eutaw Place ends at Druid Park Lake Drive at which point there will be a stop for Druid Hill Park. This will also serve the northern portion of Reservoir Hill. The circualtor will then cross over the JFX where Druid Park Lake Drive becomes W. 28th St. in the heart of Remington. Remington, like Reservoir Hill, is an up & comer and is experiencing a rebirth with several promising development plans in the pipeline. It is here that I ask the Hampden-Woodberry Shuttle Bug to extend itself to connect to the College Route of the Charm City Circulator by including a new stop at 28th and Sisson St. 
Once in Remington, the line will follow Sisson St and will then make a right at Wyman Park Drive. Here it will follow Wyman Park Drive to Johns Hopkins University. The line will then follow Art Museum Drive until it empties out onto Charles St. where at 32nd St. it will have a Charles Village Stop. This could be a future transfer point for the Charles St. Trolley when it funded and built. Once on 32nd St. the line will pick up St. Paul St.
It will follow St. Paul St. for a few blocks and then will turn back onto 29th St. It will follow 29th St. until it picks up Maryland Avenue. It will then follow Maryland Avenue through the Old Goucher, Charles North, and Station North Neighborhoods stopping at all Neighborhoods as well as Penn Station. 
It will continue to follow Maryland Avenue where it will have a University of Baltimore Stop (different from University of Maryland Baltimore) whose stop will also include the Lyric Opera House and the Fitzgerald Apartments. The line will follow Maryland Avenue until it blends with Cathedral St. for a stop at the Washington Monument in the heart of Mount Vernon also serving the Walters Art Museum. Continuing down Cathedral St. there will be stops at the derelict Lexington Mall which would also serve Charles Center and the ill-fated Super-block.  
Finally the line will follow Liberty St. with a stop at First Mariner Arena before turning onto Lombard St. The First Mariner Arena is just one block from the Charles Center Metro Station. The line will follow Lombard St. until its terminus at Paca St.
As my series on walkability comes to a close, I would like to remind you that I've only scratched the surface on walkability. There are several more areas throughout the City where walkability can be improved upon. However, given how long that would take I decided on targeting areas that would benefit from the action plans that I have proposed.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A More Walkable Southeast Baltimore

As I continue my series on walkability in Baltimore, my focus turn to southeast Baltimore. No I'm not talking about the already walkable Neighborhoods of Inner Harbor East, Fells Point, and Little Italy. I'm, talking about Neighborhoods further into southeast Baltimore such as Canton, Highlandtown, Greektown, O'Donnell Heights, Brewers Hill and Patterson Park. Sure these Neighborhoods have sidewalks but walkability isn't all about sidewalks. How accessible is it to transit lines be they the Charm City Calculator or Rail Transit? This is what I will address in part of my walkability series.
No discussion on Southeast Baltimore can be complete without the Red Line. Indeed, the Red Line will increase walkability in Southeast Baltimore as well as every other part of the City and County it reaches. I don't however think that its current alignment through Southeast Baltimore is best for the Community at large. First of all, the fact that it's surface level along Boston St. will create more traffic and therefore decrease effective walkability for the area is a problem. It should also be noted that Boston St. is not nearly as high density as other parts of Southeast Baltimore. While retaining the same amount of riders in Fells Point and Canton, the Red Line will be able to gain riders in Uppers Fells Point, Highlandtown, and Patterson Park all of which are higher density than Boston St. by simply relocating the Red Line in Southeast Baltimore to Eastern Avenue. This will be tunneled of course. 
With or without the Red Line, Southeast Baltimore needs representation on the Charm City Circulator. The Charm City Circulator is a free series of buses that connects to Baltimore's showcases, attractions, and institutions. The lines circulate from Downtown and branch out into Neighborhoods such as Fells Point, Locust Point, South Baltimore, Federal Hill, Mount Vernon, Station North, Little Italy, Inner Harbor East, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and University of Maryland Biotech Park among others.
Southeast Baltimore is undergoing something of a building boom. Canton Crossing has given Baltimore its first true Big Box Shopping Center with suburban style tenants. Brewers Hill is also seeing hundreds of new Apartments going up where vacant and blighted industrial buildings once stood. Greektown is seeing town homes going up where its vacant and industrial buildings once stood. O'Donnell Heights has been torn down and is seeing redevelopment as a mixed income Community. Highlandtown, although there's not much in the way of new construction is being rediscovered after decades of disinvestment and population loss.
The only way to increase walkability at this stage in the game for Southeast Baltimore would be a new line on the Charm City Circulator. This new route named the "Silver Line" would at first overlap other lines mainly so that riders may transfer. It would start at Howard and Pratt St. for a connection to the Light Rail, and just like the Orange and Green Lines would head down into Southeast Baltimore via President St. While the Orange Line stops short at Fells Point and the Green Lines turns north to Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Silver Line would continue Southeast to Boston St. in the heart of Canton.
Once in Canton, the Silver Line will follow Boston St. with stops at predictable places such as the Safeway, Canton Crossing, and the Canton Waterfront Park. Crossing into Brewers Hill, the Silver Line will continue along Boston St. picking up Residents in all of the new Apartments from the building boom(pictured above). Continuing still down Boston St. past the Baltimore Travel Plaza (of which  there will be a stop) the Silver Line will reach its eastern "terminus" at Gusryan St. A future stop at the proposed Amazon Distribution Center can be master planned in as well.
Gusryan St. runs through O'Donnell Heights(pictured above), a public housing development currently being torn down and redeveloped as a mixed income Community. Surely a selling point to lure new Residents in and welcome old Residents back would be a stop on the Charm City Circulator's Silver Line. The Silver Line will then continue north before turning westerly onto Eastern Avenue.
Along Eastern Avenue will be a stop at Hopkins Bayview Medical Campus on its way to Greektown. Greektown, like Brewers Hill is also in the middle of a building boom. The Silver Line will turn down Oldham St. which ground zero for new construction in Greektown. Town Home Developments like O'Donnell Square and Athena Square (pictured above) where blighted industrial buildings once stood are selling like Hot Cakes. The Silver Line will then turn onto O'Donnell St. for a few blocks before turning up Haven St.
Once on Haven St. the Silver Line will make another left turn onto Eastern Avenue. It is here that the northern part of Canton will have access to the Silver Line as well as the Communities of Highlandtown and Patterson Park with such attractions as the Patterson Theater and the Southeastern Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. West of Patterson Park the Silver Line will begin to overlap the Green and Orange Lines as it makes its way back Downtown. It will pick up Baltimore St. in Charles Center via President St. for a transfer to the Metro while ending its circulating route back at Howard St.
In all fairness Southeast Baltimore is quite walkable with its plethora of sidewalks and narrow street grid with a dense population. However there's always room for improvement such as a better aligned Red Line and its very own representation on the Charm City Circulator. Stay tuned for my final installment on my walkability series.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

New Posts Coming Soon

After a well deserved and restful two weeks of vacation, I'm now back home and ready to resume work on not just my series on the walkability of Baltimore but all the other ideas that have bubbling through my head that are still in the research phase. Stay tuned for the completion of the series I started and the transformation of other ideas into the posts you see on this blog.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A More Walkable Key Highway

Key Highway acts as a gateway to the South Baltimore Peninsula. Until recently, the South Baltimore Peninsula was home to heavy industry in addition to Row Homes. At the time Key Highway acted as the perfect gateway to South Baltimore with the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in its forefront. Well times have changed and Key Highway and the South Baltimore Peninsula as a whole are much less industrial and much more Residential and Retail. One thing that goes hand in hand with that type of development is walkability. So without further ado, I give you a more walkable Key Highway.
The face of Key Highway has changed considerably over the past 20 years. After closing in 1984 the Bethlehem Steel shipyard lay vacant and rotting for several years before the construction of the Harborview Tower in 1993. This 29 story condo tower was the first of its kind and was way ahead of its time. The developers of Harborview knew what they were doing though. Throughout the 2000s, Harborview expanded with a low rise condo building and 88 very large town homes. Shortly following was the construction of the Ritz Carlton Residences although the economic downturn of 2008 stalled construction and prices dropped from seven figures to a mere six figures. Both Harborview and the Ritz Carlton Residences are gated Communities. 
Gated Communities don't exactly scream walkability and welcoming environment. Residents of a gated Community are less likely to walk places or use public transportation like the Charm City Circulator. It also sends a message for non Residents and that message is; Keep Out! Now I must give credit where credit is due, the Charm City Circulator has been great at transporting Residents in the area of Key Highway around the City and has brought many visitors as well to Key Highway (myself included.) Walkability cannot be achieved without something such as the Charm City Circulator and its connections to MTA Bus Lines, MARC, and Light Rail. This in a lot of ways makes Key Highway quite walkable. 
Like most areas of the City, Key Highway is in transition. There are still remnants of its industrial past and vacant lots that can be developed or redeveloped. In doing so, the walkability of Key Highway can be improved upon vastly. In keeping with my "give credit where credit is due" theme of this post, the City released a Master Plan for the Key Highway Waterfront addressing these issues. The plan talked about restricting building heights (no walls of high rises) and not blocking sight from Federal Hill.
Though there has been lots of development on Key Highway, there are still vacant lots. For instance, Harborview is far from complete. There are two parcels directly adjacent to the 29 story Harborview high rise. When the market turns around, construction will commence on the ultra upscale "Pinnacle at Harborview." Pinnacle is the scaled back version of what was to be two high rises both of which were to be 26 stories. Since this goes against the "the no wall of high rises" approach, Pinnacle was dropped down to 17 stories. There are no plans as to what the height of the third building will be. Pinnacle and most likely the third building on that lot will be gated which will only add to the lack of walkability that Key Highway has grown accustomed to. How about from here on out we shy away from Gated Communities on Key Highway?
With that in mind, lets take a walk down Key Highway to take a look at develop-able parcels. First there's Covington St. across from Harborview and Digital Harbor High School. There are plans to put a high rise on this very narrow piece of land. I do not support this and neither does the South Baltimore Community. What I do support is 3-4 story mixed use buildings that look like Federal Place Town Homes right behind them. The only difference is, these will have ground floor Retail that faces Key Highway. In that same area are two pieces of triangular land both with blighted uses that could be suited for 6 Story Apartment Buildings with ground floor Retail.
Between Harborview and Little Havana (which is under going a large renovation) is a parking lot that is part of the Harvorview Property waited to be developed. That could make a 7-9 story building with ground floor Retail along with half of the empty warehouse next to it. The remaining half of the empty warehouse could be demolished to give a better view of the water to Clement St and Webster St. Residents. Webster St. and Clement St for that matter could both made into a walkways to the pier. 
On the other side of Webster St., there's a narrow piece of property that would make for a good 12 story high rise. A building this tall would only work here because there it wouldn't obstruct the view of the water from other buildings. In order to ensure walkability on Key Highway, the Fire Department Repair Shop next to Museum of Industry would have to be demolished. In its place, another building with Apartments and Condos but it would only be 6-8 stories. There's a 9 story building going up at the former General Electric sight so making this building taller than 9 stories would obstruct the view. Both of these buildings will have ground floor Retail.
As for Key Highway itself. the road is due for a makeover. This includes fresh asphalt pavement, red brick crosswalks, more stylish street lights, pedestrian signals where there are none and to replace the aging median strip with fresh red bricks and new plantings. This doesn't make Key Highway anymore walkable per-se but it creates a more welcoming environment than what it is there now and how welcoming the environment is translates into how walkable the Community is. Stay tuned for my next article in the series.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hampden-Woodberry: The Gold Standard of Walkability

I actually had no intention or idea I would be writing this article. I figured I would start this series by addressing areas I thought walkability or lack there of, would be the start. However, I took a walk around the area yesterday near the Light Rail Stop and up 41st St. all the way to the Rotunda and back. Well actually some that was journey was with the help of the Hampden Shuttle Bug. I couldn't help but realize how incredibly the walkable the Community is and how beautiful the area is as well. Hampden-Woodberry, I christen thee the Gold Standard of Walkability.
The history of Hampden-Woodberry is all around us. Most of the new development that has come to the pipeline recently actually hasn't been new at all. It has been the restoration of the Mills that were once the major Employers of the Mill Villages that would become Hampden-Woodberry. It wasn't until recently that the Mills were thought of as assets to the Neighborhood, in fact it was quite the contrary. The Mills were old blighted and boarded up.
36th St. or the Avenue was and still is the piece de resistance of Hampden. Woodberry seemed to be worlds away as it was not only west of Falls Road but also west of the JFX. It should be mentioned that before the JFXs construction, Hampden and Woodberry were seamlessly together. As the Avenue began breathing new life into Hampden, it seemed that the Light Rail Stop was worlds away. After all, it was in Woodberry which at the time was in the middle of nowhere and the Avenue was in Hampden. Of course the Light Rail Stop is just a few blocks away from the Avenue but given the "no man's land" status of the Light Rail Stop and that it was near the vacant mills, very few utilized it.
The Real reason the Light Rail Stop wasn't used by Hampdenites, was because it just wasn't that walkable. Given the fact that many new Residents in Hampden don't have cars and/or prefer walking, there had to be a way to connect the Light Rail Stop to the Avenue. It was then that the Shuttle Bug was conceived. The Shuttle Bug improved Hampden's walkability by immeasurable proportions. The Shuttle Bug runs through Hampden and Woodberry with stops on the main roads and intersections Hampdenites better access to the Light Rail Station, something that was lacking before hand. This also breathed new life into Hampden west of Falls Road still closer to the Light Rail Station. This made the walk under the JFX to get to the Light Rail Station and Woodberry a little less scary. 
As vacant row homes in Hampden began to be occupied again, the demand for housing, retail, and office space remained. There isn't much room for new construction so developers had to look at other options. They began to look at the possibility of rehabbing the old Mills that had provided employment the area for generations prior. The interest generated by rehabbing the Poole & Hunt Complex (renamed Clipper Mill) as mixed use sparked not only new construction on the site, but it allowed developers to pursue rehabbing other Mills in the area.
As the 2000s turned into the 2010s, Union Mill, Meadow Mill, Mount Vernon Mill 1&4, and Clipper Mill (the real one) were slated for reuse as mixed use development projects. This provided the much needed link between the Avenue and the Woodberry Light Rail Stop. This coupled with the Shuttle Bug gave Hampden its own Light Rail Stop. Although the distance between the Avenue and the Light Rail Stop hadn't changed, the only thing that had changed was its walkability. The rehabbing of the Mills created a welcoming environment full of life and lots of foot traffic all around the Light Rail Stop which encouraged more Residents to use the Light Rail Stop whether they walked there or took the Shuttle Bus. The Walkability is what ultimately reunited Hampden-Woodberry even with the JFX. 
When looking in the future to make more Neighborhoods or Neighborhood clusters walkable, look no further than Hampden-Woodberry, the Gold Standard.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lets Make Baltimore More Walkable

Although I consider Baltimore to be a very walkable City, there is always room for improvement. Whether it's an additional line or stops on the Charm City Calculator, adding more sidewalks to recently redeveloped areas of the city, adding lighting, redevelopment of eyesores, or just about anything to provide a more welcoming environment to certain areas of the City, making Baltimore more walkable is key to the continued growth of the City and to continue to add Neighborhoods to the City's showcase. What will follow is a series of areas in the City that I believe will benefit from being more walkable. Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Marketplace at Fells Point: A Delicate but Worthwhile Endeavor

Although the Inner Harbor was the turning point for gentrification along the waterfront, Fells Point was ground zero for Residential Gentrification. At the time, there weren't really any Residences in the Inner Harbor area as the site for Inner Harbor East was nothing but surface parking lots. As Fells Point began to gentrify, two areas became known as the crowns & jewels of Fells Point; Broadway (the two blocks in which the Broadway Market is located) and Thames St. due to its waterfront access.
The gentrification of Fells Point spread like wildfire to Little Italy, Canton, Patterson Park, Butchers Hill,  Greeektown, Brewers Hill, Historic Jonestown, Inner Harbor East, Federal Hill, Locust Point, Otterbein, and South Baltimore. A lot of these Neighborhoods had ample space for new construction. This is something that Fells Point doesn't have. Larger Retailers have no choice but to go to newly constructed shopping areas like Canton Crossing, McHenry Row, and Inner Harbor East. Thames St. does have lots of great Retail and Restaurants but their footprints are only so big. Could Fells Point be losing its shine? It would certainly take a delicate but worthwhile endeavor enhance the Neighborhood. 
Large plots of new construction in Fells Point are hard to come by. The Crescent was built at Henderson's Wharf featuring Apartments & Town Homes, other than that, rehabbing existing buildings be they Row Homes or Industrial Buildings has been the order of the day. Granted there have been some infill areas throughout Fells Point where new construction has taken place. As new Retail and Residential construction continued throughout other Harbor Neighborhoods, more and more vacant storefronts popped up in Fells Point, most notably the 600 block of S. Broadway. Could this be the siren call for new construction in Fells Point?
Well not exactly, you see the 600 block of Broadway was once one of Fells Point's show case blocks. It's just a few blocks away from the water and Thames St. It's also just block north of the 700 block of S. Broadway where the Retail is much livelier. Perhaps the most important reason that the 600 block of S. Broadway isn't conducive to new construction is because the historic Boradway Market is in the median of this block (as well as the 700 block.) It should also be noted that the facades in the 600 block are well preserved and demolishing them would not be beneficial. 
That being said, the buildings are quite shallow and there was land behind them on both sides of the street. In 2005, a developer known as "South Broadway Properties LLC" began the delicate but worthwhile endeavor of purchasing the properties on both sides of the 600 block of South Broadway whether vacant or occupied. The intent was and still is to turn the block into a vibrant mixed use with all amenities of new construction while still remaining true to the character of the surrounding blocks. The result would become Marketplace at Fells Point. Properties in the 600 block that had been acquired and vacated had a logo of "MP" on the windows and/or an artist's rendering of the block thriving after construction.
So what exactly is Marketplace at Fells Point? Like I said before, it's a mixed use development that capitalizes on the location and the fact that the existing buildings are shallow as well as their historic character. In order to preserve the facades of the buildings and provide the amenities of new construction, everything but the bricks of the front facades had to be demolished. Now you can see how delicate this venture is, just one little mistake and the historic facades could be just that;history. 
Behind the facades would be ground floor Retail presumably more upscale than its predecessors. The buildings will go back deeper taking advantage of the land that was behind them. Above the Retail, there will be 159 brand new Apartments. Not since the Crescent at Fells Point has there been a number of new construction Residential in Fells Point. Sure Inner Harbor East is just nect door as is Canton but those looking for a brand new Apartment and are dead set on Fells Point, needn't look any further.
One great thing about Marketplace at Fells Point is that it's almost all landlocked by existing buildings. That means the new construction doesn't stick out like a sore thumb. It's only barely visible to the naked eye and said naked eye would have to be quite familiar with the area in order to differentiate between the two. The Apartments are nearing completion and are being leased up like hotcakes. The Retail portion is still under construction but with the growth generated from the Apartments and new Residential construction throughout southeast Baltimore as a whole, I'm sure the Retail portion will be just as easy to lease out to smaller footprint Retailers upon completion.
It may have taken a while but Marketplace at Fells Point is nearing completion and it surely has been and will continue to be a delicate and worthwhile endeavor.