Thursday, January 28, 2010

Harbor Place: Get Out of the Way!

When it comes to the Rebirth of the Inner Harbor what two words automatically come to mind? Harbor Place right? Me too, when you think of the one thing that's draining vitality from the Inner Harbor 30 years later what two words come to mind? Harbor Place? Me too. What two words do you utter in disgust when you can't see the water from Office, Apartment, or Hotel Room when promised a view of the water? Well you get the idea. The question now becomes, how did the once World Class Shopping Venue that brought the Harbor back from a dead industrial port into the model for Tourist Related Waterfronts looking to redevelop become so problematic? The answer lies ahead.
Harbor Place set the bench in 1980 for a massive Inner Harbor Rebirth. Paired with the Harbor Promenade the tourist attractions began multiplying with the Science Center, the National Aquarium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, countless Hotels, the Convention Center, 1st Mariner Arena to name a few. Some of these attractions were built before Harbor Place but they gained more attention as the Harbor's pull put them on the map. The Activity at the Harbor was a huge success and Restaurant Owners in nearby Little Italy who were initially afraid they'd lose business were ecstatic when their business boomed post Harbor Place. With the Inner Harbor in the 1980s there was still the "Don't Make the Wrong Turn" worries but it didn't seem to deter Tourists.
On the Residential side Mayor William Donald Shaffer's Dollar Row House program in neighborhoods like Otterbein, Fells Point, Ridgley's Delight and Federal Hill made their popularity and home values soar. Since most of the Harbor was still an Industrial Wasteland the demand to redevelop was greater than ever. Inner Harbor East, Canton Crossing, The Crescent at Fells Point, Tide Point, Harbor Point, Harborview, Silo Point all have redrawn the landscape of the Harbor. So everything appears to be Hunk Dorry right?
Well, just like anything and everything in the urban planning field, there's a shelf life for developments or trends if you will. What worked astronomically well 30 years ago doesn't necessarily work today. Usually the catalyst ages the worst, it's surrounded by newer developments with constantly changing innovations in urban planning that weren't there 30 years ago. Also Downtown just kept expanding, all of those developments I mentioned and then some have wooed businesses both independent and national chains into their new development.
Inner Harbor East is much denser than Harbor Place, the traffic design is such that crossing major City Streets is not a life or death maneuver. The same can be said about developments along Key Highway. To get from the Harbor Place Promenade to pretty much anywhere else in the City ie the Hotels, you have to either cross Pratt St., President St., or Light St. if not all of them.Although very safe there have been a few instances of Crime occurring in the more resent summers that have had an impact on businesses in Harbor Place with Outdoor Seating. A greater Police presence can either make you feel safer or it can make you feel like you're in an area that's a known hot spot for crime. The Inner Harbor is not a crime hot spot when it comes to Baltimore Standards but for tourists who don't know about the rest of Baltimore and think that these few incidents are the norm and that the Harbor isn't safe.
All of these elements can hurt business in a Retail Complex such as Harbor Place, and it has. Every time I walk through it from the Sky Walk to the Promenade I see more and more shuttered businesses that moved to other locations. The fact that Harbor Place is often used as means to get across Town without crossing streets makes it appear more crowded but the people aren't always shopping or eating there. As more and more new developments feature Sky Scrapers; the views of the Harbor become obstructed and the Harbor itself is why Baltimore is what it is.
So how do we fix this? The City has requested for proposals to redevelop Pratt St. which has become absurdly wide and congested and has lost its role as the City's Show Case Street. Plans for redevelopment on Pratt St. have included widening the road for two way traffic, adding more Retail, narrowing the road, adding the Red Line, and subtracting Retail. Obviously these plans differ greatly in their goals but Pratt St needs to be redeveloped in order to save or not save Harbor Place. I favor narrowing Pratt St. and putting the Red Line at Surface Level to Show Case a burgoening Rail Transit System for the Baltimore Region.I choose not saving Harbor Place, it obstructs the view of the Harbor while traveling on both Pratt St. and Light St. and its storefronts face the back of the road or the front of the Promenade. Harbor Place is simply in the way. It has enough vacancies to warrant redevelopment and something will have to be done as part of the Master Plan for Pratt St. There are enough open spaces for Retail in other parts of Downtown, mainly the Westside for existing Retailers in Harbor Place.
Now what should in its place? Nothing. Sometimes less is more and with less buildings in the way the more opportunity there is to just sit back and enjoy the view of the Harbor. So get out of the Harbor Place.

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.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fancy Some Redevelopment?

All Maps from Google Earth
All Photos Taken By Me
As of the 2000 Census, there were 15,000 vacant homes in the City of Baltimore. That number has gone down in the past 10 years and I'm curious to see what the 2010 census has to say in a few months. Needless to say there are still sections of the City that are all but deserted. Those selected areas can't make a comeback with their current housing stock. The houses are either obsolete or are two much of a hazard to try to rehab. It's at this point where these large sections of certain City Neighborhoods have to hit the wrecking ball. There is a pent up demand for new housing in the City, in some of the very neighborhoods where large portions need redevelopment also play host to a few blocks of new housing. Most of these homes were built in mid to late '90s through the earlier part of the past decade. These new homes are in perfect condition in neighborhoods that are in bad shape otherwise. Here are the selections of neighborhoods I have chosen for redevelopment.Park Heights-although there has been a major redevelopment initiatives for this neighborhood it still needs to be addressed. Most of these homes are below Woodland Avenue and west of Pall Mall Road.

New homes should be as narrow as their predessors but should contain modern amenities. One car garages in the first floor, the elimination of formal Dining Rooms in favor of large eat in Kitchens with walk in pantries, and a Master Suite with Walk in Closets and a "Superbath." These homes would be either three or four stories depending on the number of bedrooms and will be for a mix of incomes. The "affordable" houses might not have all the amenities as a market rate house. The Owenership/Rental Ratio will be 70/30.Franklin Square/Poppleton-The eastern edge of Poppleton that abuts to MLK Boulevard has enjoyed a revival first with the demolition of Lexington Terrace and their

The "Townes at the Terraces" Replacement and now the UMB Biotech Park.However, these success stories have not resulted in a turn around of West Poppleton and still further west, Franklin Square. Within the redevelopment of Poppleton, its other public housing development Poe Homes will be redeveloped, however, the "Poe House" and its row will not be. The nothern and eastern edge of the redevelopment site will be high density apartments/condos.The southern and western edges will be row homes like I described in the Park Heights Redvelopment Plan. Franklin Square is named after its lovely Public Square. Poppleton currently lacks one as part of its redevelopment a block in Poppleton will be spared as a public sqaure. The Ownership Rental Ratio will be 55/45.
Harlem Park-Just like Poppleton the eastern edge of Harlem Park is the healthiest. This can easily be attributed to it bordering Heritage Crossing, the highly sucessful although suburban redvelopment of Murphy Homes. As you can tell from the map there are plenty of vacant lots but Harlem Park's vacant housing count was 40% in 2000 so add that to the vacant lots, it's clear that redevelopment is needed here.I also don't believe Harlem Park gained population in the past 10 years, I believe it continued to lose population. Below Harlem Avenue the new housing will be Apartments/Condos while above Harlem Avenue it will be row homes. The row homes they're replacing are larger and wider than your average Baltimore Row Home and should be redeveloped as such. These will have 2 car garages, a large eat in Kitchen AND a formal Dining Room and downstairs Den or extra Bedroom with either a full or half bath. Also like Poppleton the Owner/Rental Ratio will be 55/45.Sandtown Winchester- Sandtown was given a great gift in the Schmoke Adminstration. The Non Profit "Enterprise Foundation" redeveloped and rehabbed hundreds of homes here for below market rate home ownership.The blocks with new housing have remained a huge success. Of course not this is only a small part of Sandtown mainly the southern and eastern edges. Gentrificaton has not come to the northern and western parts of Sandtown and I know why.

Smack dab in the middle of Sandtown is Gilmor Homes. Gilmor Homes is a low rise public housing development where there have been talks to demolish them in the past but I haven't heard anything of the sort lately. My redevelopment plan includes Gilmor Homes and the western and northern edges of the neighborhood.

Along Fulton and Monroe Sts. will be higher density Apartments/Condos to encourage TOD in the Rosemont Industrial Ruins. The Central part of Sandtown will be narrow row homes with modern amenities. The Owner/Rental Ratio will be 65/35 with an emphasis on affordable owner occupied housing.
Upton-Lucklily the Marble Hill District is located on the eastern edge of the Community because the western edge needs the most redevelopment. The homes on the western edge that warrants robust redevelopment aren't as large or as elegant as those in the Marble Hill District. These homes are also located just across Fremont Avenue from all the successfully redeveloped area of Sandtown.In theory, a redeveloped West Upton can in fact work. It's also located next to Heritage Crossing, also successful would be a boost to any redevelopment of Upton. New development, like the old will be smaller row homes except for the Upton Courts Apartment Complex. Home Owner/Rental Ratio would be 45/55 with an emphasis on affordable housing. McCulloh Homes-If you've followed me on my journey known as this blog you will see that I've gone back and forth on what the future should be for McCulloh Homes. If it's in this post that means it should be redeveloped. The "Senior and Handicap" High Rises will stay but the rest would go. At first when the State Center was up for redevelopment, McCulloh Homes was included, however, residents fought against it and won.

That was several years ago. Today, McCulloh Homes appear less and less occupied. I attended a meeting discussing TOD projects, one of those discussed was State Center and I asked why McCulloh Homes was taken off given that their population seemed to draining out. I was told that McCulloh Homes was under massive renovation and that explains the low occupancy. When was the last time the City renovated a public housing complex? I can't remember either. The City's standard protocol has been demolition, I believe the City is draining out McCulloh Homes in secret for redevelopment. Reservoir Hill-The rebirth of Reservoir Hill has been a tremendous grassroots effort that's still going on today. There are still areas that need work and there is new development planned to overlook Druid Hill Park.

What I'm proposing to have redeveloped is the blighted Madison Park North Apartments along North Avenue and a critical central block that cuts through the spine of the neighborhood. Once redeveloped Bolton Hill and Reservoir Hill won't seem like they're worlds apart because of North Avenue. New homes will be large with 2 car garages, formal dining rooms, and a downstairs 4thor 5th bedroom and full bath. This will be 100% Home Ownership.
Johnston Square and Oliver-Both these neighborhoods are eagerly waiting true renewal. There have been a few new town homes scattered throughout which have been an invaluable asset to the Community showing that they can in fact co exist with their surrounding blight while still looking immaculate. Homes here are small and with the exception of a few apartment complexes are mostly row homes.

New Apartments/Condos will be at the western border of Johnston Square so if and when the JFX is torn down, it will be a seemless transition from Mount Vernon on the west. The new town homes will be in the rest of the redevelopment zone in east Johnston Sqaure and Oliver. They will be smaller, like their predecessors with a 1 car garage and no formal dining room. Broadway East-Now that Middle East is being engulfed by the Hopkins Biotech Park and several public housing projects have been demolished, Broadway East just might hold the title of the worst neighborhood in East Baltimore. With a vacancy rate of 30% redevelopment won't be very hard. This neighborhood has an unrecognized catalyst for growth that needs to be utilized to its full advantage; Transit!

This neighborhood can be one of Baltimore's best Transit Hubs if done correctly. First the East Baltimore MARC Station to be built is not far, Second my personal Red Line plan has the one the Red Line "branches" going through Orangeville, and on the western edge the Green Line expansion to Morgan and hopefully points northeast thereof. New development closest to Broadway and the MARC Tracks will be High Density TOD Apartments/Condos with ground floor Retail while parts of the area further away will be town homes.
Pulaski Highway-Pulaski Highway in Baltimore is too much of well, a Highway. Because of that, its surroundings suffer and have become outdated. Pulaski Highway could be considered East Baltimore's "Road to Nowhere" except for the small detail that it does in fact go somewhere. In order to make Pulaski Highway function its interchanges with streets like Erdman Avenue and Moravia Road. Those should be made into regular signalized intersections and I've stated that I-895 should not extend that far in previous posts. Once Pulaski Highway is turned into an urban street like say Eastern Avenue, it can redevelop and function with the rest of the City.
Orangeville-Three letters for Orangeville's Future! TOD. This is the proposed location for the East Baltimore MARC Station and will eventually give wealthy Inner Harbor East Dwellers a run for their money. Currently an aging 20th Industrial Wasteland, there are a few homes here. Gone with the dated industry and in with the high density mixed use residential /retail/office/hotel that comes with upscale urban TOD. Orangeville should put Baltimore on the map with transit savvy Cities like Portland,OR or San Francisco.
Highlandtown Loft District-I saw drawrings for this and I must say I'm very impressed. The reuse of the long anbandoned Cork Factory and the Red Line Stop will close the gap that seperates Highlandtown from Greektown.

There's a little known neighborhood known as Kresson which is the old industrial buildings in between Highlandtown and Greektown with a few lonely row homes. This is what can be known as the next Station North and bring new residents into Southeast Baltimore. Highlandtown, your time has gone.
Eastern JFX-This is prime Real Estate. Demolish the JFX and Baltimore has expanded its Downtown. The Parking lots known as Penn Fallsway, The Prisons,(yes the prisons),

and Old Town Mall will all be converted into Sky Scrapers that range from residential, hotel, commercial, and retail. Further east will be town homes particularly where Douglass Homes, LaTrobe Homes and the already demolished Somerset Homes are. The only thing left in this zone will Monument House. Downtown and Johns Hopkins Hospital finally meet.

Barclay/Midway/Coldstream-This North Central chunk of Baltimore Real Estate suffers from old tired housing that feels desolate at times.

Barclay, is perhaps the most viable but east of Calvert St. despite its proximity to Station North and Charles Village is struggling to come back in its current form. Developers know this and have begun envisioning a new redeveloped Barclay with a Public Square. East Baltimore Midway has been forgotten and neglected. Time does not heel all woonds with some blocks entirely vacant. Redeveloping East Baltimore Midway will be a task like that of Uplands only bigger. The entire East Baltimore Midway neighborhood will be demolished. Coldstream, the lower part of Coldtream Homestead Montebello will also be demolished and will help bring back the signifigance of Historic Homestead Village to the north.Across Loch Raven Boulevard in Better Waverly there's a Rental Town Home Complex that doesn't go along with the Single Family Home and Row House motif that works well with the rest of Better Waverly.

And now perhaps the biggest redevelopment effort needed in the City The Road to Nowhere I'll let my friend and fellow Baltimore Writer Peter Tocco take over from here Now that's a lot of redevelopment!