Monday, November 28, 2016

Church Square Clay Courts and All Things Gay St.

Lately I have been mentioning something I've branded as "The Tentacle Effect" when discussing reinvestment and redevelopment in East Baltimore. It's something that I see happening with the Hopkins redevelopment going up Broadway. I would like to see this happen in other parts of East Baltimore moving northbound to North Avenue.
This post focuses on Gay St. and how it can reconnect to itself and run as a straight shot from Pratt St. all the way to North Avenue. There will have to be a lot of reworking of the urban grid and redevelopment to make it all work, but I intended to show you step by step how to do it.
Given the narrow nature of Gay St., it will be a one way northbound route which is what it currently is in its southern spur. Not much will change with Gay St.'s southern spur as it travels northeast bound from Pratt St. to Orleans St. If and when the JFX is demolished, some traffic patterns will have to change which is true for all streets that meet the JFX. Between the JFX and Orleans St., Gay St. has a very nice streetscape with historic buildings that have seen better days. I would also like to point out that the road is relatively wide. This would make a great historic preservation area with on street parking, two lanes of thru traffic, and newly rehabbed buildings.

Orleans St. is where the southern spur of Gay St. ends. In order to continue going north, Gay St, traffic blends into Esnor St. by veering off to the left. To keep Gay St. continuing on its former and future path, Oldtown Mall will have to re-open to vehicular traffic plain and simple. Going through Oldtown Mall, Gay St. will be a one way northbound street with just one lane of traffic and no on street parking. Reopening Gay St. will have to be carefully planned in conjunction with the rebuilding and rehabbing of Oldtown Mall. I don't condone the tearing down of the existing buildings.
Oldtown Mall stops at Aisquith St. just short of Monument St. Gay St. will have to cut through the front of the Monument House Apartment Building. Either additional traffic signals will be added or a large roundabout will have to be mitigate the addition of Gay St. going through Aisquith and Monument Streets. Fortunately, all of the streets in question are one way which will make the transition that much easier.  
Above Monument St., Gay St. will run right through Dunbar High's track and football field. I have always been less than impressed with the placement of this field since the School Building is located 1 block kitty-corner southeast. 2 other Schools in the same block as Dunbar High have shut down within the last decade (Thomas G. Hayes Elementary and Dunbar Middle) but their buildings remain. I would suggest tearing down the old Elementary and Middle School buildings and relocating the Dunbar High fields directly behind the building. This not only will provide a clear path for Gay St. to continue above Monument St., but the remaining portion of the field will be ripe for new development as well.
The intersection of Central Avenue and Madison St. will now have Gay St. running through it. This result in either a redesigned traffic signal, or a roundabout. Above this intersection, there's a clear path of land for Gay St. to continue through without any demolition required. The parking lot for the Waters Tower Apartment Building will have to relocated but the building itself may remain in place.
Perhaps the biggest redevelopment associated with re-connecting Gay St. is Church Square Shopping Center. Redeveloping this Shopping Center not only will only Gay St. to continue its path towards Broadway uninterrupted, it will solve a food desert problem. The Shopping Center will now comprise of two block city blocks; the one it occupies now and the one directly east of it. A brand new Grocer that's larger than the current Save-A Lot will occupy the land east of Bond St. The Clay Courts Apartments on Eager St. will have to be torn down as will the mostly vacant row homes along Ashland Avenue as well. The row homes along Broadway will remain in place as will the Church that occupies this block. The remaining Church Square Retail will be torn down and redeveloped along Ashland Avenue so that Gay St. can continue its pathway to Broadway.
The last block between the new Gay St. and Broadway goes between Bond St. and Broadway above Eager St. this block comprises the remainder of Clay Courts Apartments. Unfortunately, there's no path for Gay St. with these Apartments configured the way they are. They will have to be torn down and redeveloped once Gay St. has opened and the two can co-exist peacefully. At Chase St. there's a stub of Gay St. that once connected to the other end of Gay St.
With the new Gay St. connection, all that would need to be done is breakup the Broadway median and create a new fully signalized intersection with Broadway and Gay St. Once this is done, Gay St. can now run uninterrupted from Pratt St. to North Avenue as a northbound one way Street and thereby relieve traffic on the JFX and I-695 while simultaneously opening East Baltimore up for further new and rehabbed developments.

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