Monday, January 25, 2010

Bond St. Wharf: How Did We Miss This One?

Fells Point has a lot of developmental firsts when it comes to Baltimore. It was among the first three settlements of the original Baltimoretown, Some of Baltimore's first industrial ventures have roots in Fells Point, some of Baltimore's first homes are in Fells Point, Fells Point was the first neighborhood to successfully stop a freeway from killing, and along with Otterbein and Federal Hill it was the first to see a rebirth through getting people back in its old row houses. It should have then been the first neighborhood to be built out through redevelopment of its old industrial waterfront then too right? Wrong! Bond St. Wharf remains vacant How did this happen? I will try to answer this and provide what the future looks like when Fells Point does become built out.
Fells Point grew rapidly as Baltimore's best shipping enclave. It featured the winning combination of the Bond St. Wharf, Henderson's Wharf, and the Broadway Pier. In the early days this served as 1st Class Docks for importing and exporting goods and services not just in and out of Baltimore, but the whole Country. Manufacturers began opening up factories that produced clothing and textiles throughout Fells Point to be near the Docks for easy shipping. Fells Point itself was home to a diverse ethnic Population with immigrants from Poland, Lithuania, The Ukraine, Russia, Greece, Ireland, Germany, and Italy filling the streets. As technology became more sophisticated, Fells Point was still an industrial magnet as Allied Signal Chemical bought up the entire Bond St. Wharf for its Warehouses and Shipping Docks.
Like the plight of all Industrial Cities, Fells Point suffered a major setback after World War II when the nature of industry and manufacturing fell victim to technology. Why a victim to technology you say? Well, it's responsible for the collapse of the American Workforce as we once knew it, factories that once employed thousands began massive layoffs which continue to this day. As unemployment in Fells Point grew, its population shrank as families sought employment elsewhere. Industrial Fells Point may have fallen but residential Fells Point retained its quaint old world charm despite a population loss.
1980 began a new day for Fells Point and the Baltimore Waterfront as a whole. The opening of Harbor Place marked the birth of the Inner Harbor as a World Class Tourist Attraction. Nearby neighborhoods like Fells Point sought to regain population due to its proximity to the Harbor. City Dwellers new and old were attracted to the quaint old world charm in Fells Point and the old row homes began filling up with a population that was wealthier than its working class predecessors. Fells Point however, was in grave danger of falling victim to the interstate revolt, Canton too for that matter. I-83, was not supposed to stop at Fayette St., it was supposed to continue through Fells Point along Aliceanna Street's alignment and then through Canton along Boston Street's current alignment (sounds like the Red Line 4C) meeting I-95 by going across the Harbor. This would have had a devastating effect. Enter Senator Barb (she wasn't a Senator at the time) who was the driving force behind the Freeway and launched her Political Career into high speed earning her her title "Senator Barb." I-83's southern terminus remains at Fayette St. and will not extend further south.
Now comes the redevelopment of old industrial Baltimore. Can you say Mixed Use Residential/Retail/Office/Hotel and everything in between? First came the Harborview High Rise along Key Highway which was supposed to be nothing but high rises but the plans were changed to add a mix of residences. Then came Inner Harbor East located south of Little Italy. Then Came Canton Crossing and Henderson's Wharf in Fells Point. Now anything near Water is gold it goes as far as Brewers Hill and Locust Point. It doesn't have to be the Inner Harbor anymore. The Middle Branch will see new life as Westport, Cherry Hill, and "Gateway South" along Russell St. redevelop their Waterfronts. Port Covington is also being eyed. So does that mean the Inner Harbor is completely built out? Not quite, a pivotal part of the Inner Harbor Waterfront in Fells Point has seemingly been forgotten; the Bond St. Wharf, the former Allied Signal Chemical Site. How did we miss it?
The truth is, we didn't miss it and never did. Allied Signal closed their plant in 1985, 5 years after the opening of Harbor Place leaving it as a long time hold out in the once proud industrial Baltimore. In 1989 4 years after the plant's closure the site, was deemed contaminated and not fit for development. Allied Signal reached a deal with the State of Maryland to conduct a 20 year $61 Million site cleanup and remediation to clean up the site and the water that borders it. So, if the clean up started in 1989 that would mean the completion of the clean up of it did indeed take 20 years wasn't completed until 2009. Now, the State of Maryland wouldn't have bothered having Allied Signal undertake such a massive effort if they didn't think Bond St. Wharf wasn't a great redevelopment site. So we've come to the conclusion that the Bond St. Wharf was a worthy contender for redevelopment since 1989 at the latest.
Since then, redevelopment efforts in less contaminated sites along the Harbor took place, are currently taking place, or will be taking place. These stories dominated the head lines of our local and sometimes national newspapers but the Bond St. Wharf Cleanup did not. This led to the conclusion that the site was not a contender for redevelopment, guess what! It was and is. So now that we've established that the Bond St. Wharf is ready for redevelopment in 2010 and beyond the question one might ask his or herself is who's going to build it and what are they going to build?Look no further than Inner Harbor East for the Developers. H&S Bakery and Streuver Brothers Eccles and Rouse have teamed up once again to bring you "Harbor Point.", the renamed Bond St. Wharf. This is not to be confused with Harbour Point, a town home development currently under construction in Locust Point. Now what does this Dynamic Duo of local Developers have in store for Harbor Point? Well, it will be a seamless transition from Inner Harbor East. It's set to include Retail, Reidences, Offices, a Hotel, and Cultural Space and Open Space. It's not clear what the Cultural Space is planned to be, whether it's a Museum or a Concert Hall but the Developers are comparing with the Opera House in Sydney, Australia. Of the 27 acre site 11 acres will be preserved for Open Space and an expansion of the Inner Harbor Promenade.
Now for the question that the title of this post asks; Bond St. Wharf How Did We Miss This One? We didn't it just looks like we did.


Gary said...

FYI - Fell's Point has 2 L's.

Anonymous said...

hi.. just dropping by here... have a nice day!

Spence Lean said...

I've seen it spelled both ways I went with just the one but I certainly change it.

which one's jimmy? said...

Struever Bros. reportedly pulled out of the Harbor Point project in July 2009. H&S Properties never released if they had a new partner. Has anyone heard any news on this lately?

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