Friday, April 20, 2007

The 2 Different Worlds of Wabash Avenue

Wabash Avenue is a six lane parkway that runs in Northwest Baltimore. It cuts through the neighborhoods of Forest Park and Park Heights. It's a significant boundary because one side it has the suburban style rehabbed single family homes with manicured lawns that grace the forest park neighborhood. On the other side it contains vacant, boarded up, and dilapidated row homes and single family homes of Park Heights.
First let me give you a brief history of Wabash Avenue. Wabash Avenue was part of a bigger plan to extend I-795 inside I-695. It would have gone through Sudbrook Park running roughly parallel to the metro subway tracks and ending where Wabash Avenue meets Patterson Avenue. This was later scrapped leaving Wabash Avenue in its present form, a six lane parkway that cuts through Northwest Baltimore.
Wabash Avenue, like many city streets built in the interstate era is suburban in nature. Big reasons for the flight to the suburbs was decentralization of jobs, the ever growing dependence on personal cars, and the demand for new lower density housing. Meanwhile back in the big cities. traffic was growing ever more congested as the interstate building frenzy couldn't keep up with the metropolitan area's growth. The city began creating and/or widening existing thoroughfares as either a part of or in addition to an interstate. Wabash Avenue is a perfect example of these roads that were created to almost mimic suburbia with low density commercial or industrial uses along it. Other examples include Dundalk Avenue, Gwynns Falls Parkway, Hilton Parkway, Patapsco Avenue, Broening Highway, Edison Highway, Perring Parkway, and Morovia Road.One thing Wabash Avenue has in its favor is that it has the metro subway running parallel to it. This automatically makes it eligible for transit oriented development. The now industrial and retail corridor can almost instantly be transformed into mixed use high density residential and office with ground floor retail. In case you haven't figured it out from the trends of my previous post the now elevated metro subway will be berried under ground to free up more land. The road itself will be extended from Hilton Street to meet its stub that was meant to connect it to Liberty Heights Avenue. Wabash Avenue will be paved in asphalt rather than concrete and narrowed to four lanes allowing room for on street parking. Streetscape enhancements include new street lights, planted medians, brick cross walks, and updated traffic signals giving Wabash Avenue the title of "Grand Urban Boulevard." Wabash Avenue doesn't wait for transit to proceed with transit oriented development, the transit is already there!
This new wave of transit oriented development aide the two worlds on either side of it. The neighborhoods of Forest Park will continue to be haven for those looking to live in the city without the crime and urban decay associated with it. Park Heights will peak the interest of rehabbers and developers alike. Finally, the two different worlds of Wabash Avenue will become one.

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