Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Edison Park Fast Lots: Not Yet

If there's one theme to this series regarding East Baltimore between Downtown and Hopkins it's this; A lot of the land and developments aren't living up to their full potential. Take Oldtown Mall, the Old Somerset Homes, the now closed Thomas G. Hayes Elementary, and Dunbar Middle among others. But there's one swath of land I haven't written about; The Edison Park Fast Lots. These surface level parking lots located next to the JFX are the antithesis of all that's urban and the epitome of suburban sprawl.
Just like LaTrobe Homes(pictured above), I have not been able to find much (or anything) in the way of history regarding the Edison Park Fast Lots but given their close proximity to the Jones Falls, I can only assume that they were flanked with Mills similar to those found in Hampden Woodberry. Regardless of the early years, this land was bought up by the Feds for the creation of the JFX and public housing high rises in hopes of "slum clearance." Whether there was ever any intent to build public housing high rises where the Edison Park Fast Lots now stand is unknown but rather than just have a huge swath of vacant land there it was decided to bring the suburbs to Downtown by creating acre after acre of surface parking lots. 
The fact that this land was made into parking lots shows just low the value of the land was at the time. Luckily as Cities have become more livable again over the past 30 years, the Edison Park Fast Lots land may increase in value drastically as land for Offices, Hotel, and High Density Apartments and Condos becomes increasingly scares looking into the future. In fact, the Oldtown Master Plan, which in some ways mirrors my East Baltimore Series (it's completely different in other ways) shows the Edison Park Fast Lots redeveloped with Sky Scrapers as an extension of Downtown. I should mention that with Master Plans, Planners and Developers alike create long term visions, these lots won't be redeveloped any time soon. 
Personally, I think the Edison Park Fast Lots shouldn't be developed for quite some time. There are just too many other factors that make it the wrong time. First, there's the JFX. It literally is a wall between the Edison Park Fast Lots and Downtown. Once the proposed demolition is complete and Guilford Avenue and the Fallsway have replaced the JFX from Fayette St. to Preston St. the gateway from East Baltimore to Downtown will have opened. Even then, will there be a demand for additional high density Housing, Hotels, Offices, and Retail?
Given that there is no definite date of completion (or start) for the demolition of the JFX I can't say for certain that there will or won't be demand for the high density sky scrapers planned for the Edison Park Lots. Right now I can say with certainty; Absolutely not.
The economic climate has vacancy rates in Offices very high in the Downtown/ Charles Center area. (pictured above)Yet new Office Buildings are being built in Harbor East and Harbor Point has been approved for still more Offices. There will also be more Offices built when State Center redevelops. With these projects all in the pipeline I think it will be a long time until there is a demand for Office Space that would require the development of the Edison Park Fast Lots. 
It is believed however, that Hotel and Apartment/Condo space has more demand than Office Space so the buildings designated for those would probably be built first with significant lag between Offices. This is true for all mixed use projects in and around Downtown, not just the Edison Park Fast Lots.    
As development continues in East Baltimore, the swath of land known as the Edison Park Fast Lots will look even more out of place. But given the state of the JFX and the ability of the economy to absorb more Office, Apartments, and Hotel space, I have to say; Not Yet.

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