Wednesday, September 10, 2014
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.
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.
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.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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.
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.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
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.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
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
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.
Monday, July 21, 2014
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.
Friday, July 18, 2014
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
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.