Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Road to Nowhere: A Phased Redevlopment Plan with a Little Help from my Friends

 Lately I have been focusing on the Road to Nowhere. There have been parts of the City that readers have told me that nobody other than me sheds light on. The Road to Nowhere is not one of those places. Everybody, including me have pondered its future and have tried to pull it out from despair and into a 21st century successful mixed use Neighborhood. As I have pondered its future I came up with some ideas but then I realized I already read them on other blogs, in fact the blogs belonged to fellow bloggers and think tankers like me Gerald Neilly and Peter Tocco. So, for this post regarding the Nowhere I got a little help from my friends.
Photo From AA Road
It's obvious that the Road to Nowhere needs helps and that in its current condition, itself and its West Baltimore Neighbors will only worsen. There has been some improvement lately along here in the form of HOPE VI developments Heritage Crossing and Townes at the Terraces replacing Murphy Homes and Lexington respectively. These new low density Town Home development didn't change the layout of the Road to Nowhere which I believe is where the road to block lies.
Photo AA Road
 One reason it's called the Road Nowhere and perhaps the biggest is because it is completely useless. It was meant to act as a spur to connect I-70 to Downtown while I-70 was on its way to meeting I-95 near Caton Avenue. Well construction began on this spur located between Franklin and Mulberry Streets in West Baltimore. However the phase of I-70 that was supposed to extend it from the western edge of Leakin Park to I-95 was halted due to outcry from citizens who were against having a highway run through Leakin Park. This, along with the prospect of extending I-83 through Fells Point and Canton elevated the profile of Barbara Makulski and eventually made her the senior US senator from Maryland. What the Road to Nowhere is now was the beginning and end of that attempt to extend I-70 from Leakin Park.
Although all of the Road to Nowhere is terrible shape, we must focus on specific areas and phase redevelopment. The only real interchange the Road to Nowhere has is with MLK Boulevard. At this interchange, traffic exits from the "freeway" where it rejoins Mulberry St. for a signalized intersection with MLK Boulevard. Those who continue on the "freeway" simply go over a bridge over MLK Boulevard where they rejoin Mulberry St. at the western edge of Downtown. This shows how useless the bridge is going eastbound. Lets see how useful it is or is not going westbound.
Photo From AA Road
When approaching the Road to Nowhere westbound you're more or less exiting Downtown and venturing into West Baltimore. While on Franklin St. you will have the option to bare left to go on the Road to Nowhere or to stay on Franklin St. for a signalized intersection with MLK Boulevard. It is assumed that if you remain on Franklin St. your destination is MLK Boulevard but it doesn't have to be. Traffic entering both Franklin St. and the Road to Nowhere uses that signalized intersection as well. Theoretically, if you went straight at the intersection and just stayed on Franklin St. you could avoid the Road to Nowhere for its entire length.
Photo From AA Road
 When turning onto Franklin St. from MLK Boulevard (west of the bridges) you have to the option of baring left to enter the "freeway" or stay on Franklin St. This little ramp is where Fremont Avenue would have met the Road to Nowhere but instead stops and starts up again at either end of it. So what I've basically determined in these last two paragraphs is that the MLK Boulevard bridges are completely useless.
So, demolishing the bridges and rerouting traffic onto Franklin St. instead of the Freeway is step one thus closing the entire westbound section of it from MLK Boulevard to Monroe St. The eastbound section of the can remain in operation until redevelopment or the Red Line calls for its closure. It will be shortened however to allow for the demolition of the MLK Boulevard bridge so that all traffic will exit at the ramp and rejoin Mulberry St. before crossing MLK Boulevard. Demolishing these bridges will free up a lot of land in between Heritage Crossing and the Terraces. This will constitute Phase I of redevelopment. Since both the Terraces and Heritage Crossing are both lower density Town Homes, I believe it best to streamline those two developments by making the new Neighborhood low density Town Homes as well. The new development will go from MLK Boulevard to Fremont Avenue, which will be reopened at the freeway where access was cut off during its construction. Hopefully this new Neighborhood renamed "Franklin Mulberry Crossing" will spur new development further down the freeway. I think the demolition of the MLK bridges will symbolize a new era of investment and development in all of West Baltimore.
Phase II of redevelopment should occur east of the bridges at the edge of Downtown. I'm speaking of course about the mammoth Social Security Building. Rumor has it that they will be moving to the State Center just a few blocks northwest and this building could and should be demolished. This coupled with its monster parking garage will free up a huge swath of land stretching from Greene St to the east, Franlkin St. to the north, Saratoga St. to the south, and MLK Boulevard to the west. This will be the perfect opportunity for a high density mixed use Residential, Commercial, and Ground Floor Retail Center that will serve a true western gateway to Downtown. In addition, parking garages will be built in the center of the buildings so they are masked to the naked eye.
Phase III of redevelopment involves the Terraces and their frontage on MLK Boulevard. There 's a very busy Rite Aid located here and I think it should redeveloped to create a row of Neighborhood Retail along MLK from Mulberry St. to Saratoga St. Although it will have MLK frontage Violet White Way will serve as a collector street so as not to disrupt traffic on MLK Boulevard. Just south of Saratoga St Violet White Way will be extended so that the site that Lexington Terrace Elementary once stood could be developed as a mid rise low income Senior Apartment Building. Also Lexington St. will be reopened to traffic with a vehicular intersection with MLK.
Finally, we come to Phase IV, the final phase in this plan. Phase IV is the southern border of Seton Hill. Seton Hill contains some of the City's best historic housing stock at the best prices while at the same time has lots of mature trees the gem that is Saint Mary's Park. The southern border of the Neighborhood consists of a triangle that is made up of Pennsylvania Avenue, MLK Boulevard and Franklin St. What's there now are suburban style Garden Apartments that appear to be 1970s urban renewal era that were most likely built around the time of the Road to Nowhere. These will be redeveloped as Row Homes that are reminiscent of classic Seton Hill Row Homes that will look like they've been there the whole time. The only difference is that they will have garages in the back to minimize size of the parking pad. These new homes will have frontage on the three mentioned streets and will back to a small "pocket park" that will act as an extension of Saint Mary's Park.  
Photo From AA Road
  There will be other phases that go further down the Road to Nowhere but there are already sufficient plans out there that address that area including the West Baltimore MARC redevelopment, the Red Line, and Peter Tocco's Baltimorphisis which shows a rendering of the freeway redeveloped and transformed and how that will positively impact surrounding Neighborhoods. For this post I turned to other blogs and got a little help from my friends.

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