Sunday, December 31, 2017

What's New in the Few Blocks Around the Harbor Part II North and East

This post wasn't meant to be a two parter. However, when I began writing the first one I realized that I had enough material for two posts. So here we are at part II. Part I dealt solely with the areas south and west of the Harbor. This time we will be focusing on the areas north and east of it. I will omit the large developments that are making all the big headlines such as Inner Harbor East and Harbor Point. That being said, lets get started.
First there's Della Notte. This shuttered Restaurant at the entrance of Little Italy at the corner of President St. and Eastern Avenue has been slated for redevelopment for a couple of years now. Little Italy has been and continues to be a tight knit community of historic row homes and independently owned restaurants. Fortunately, the Della Notte building is not in one of the blocks of historic row homes. That's why it's OK that the building is being torn down in favor of a mixed use high rise. The latest version of this high rise is 23 stories tall with 380 units and 8,000 square feet of ground floor Retail.
There have been rumors of another high rise coming to an unnamed block of Little Italy. I hope it's the northeastern block of President St. since that block is an unsightly surface lot which gives President St. a less welcoming environment. President St. needs to be more pedestrian friendly and be used an attractive connecting point between Pratt St. and its more southern Neighbors of Little Italy and Inner Harbor East.
Next there's Piers V and VI. There had been and may still be rumors that the First Mariner Arena would build its venue right at these Piers. It's true that the First Mariner Arena needs to be redeveloped and that its location in Downtown's Westside has made it less competitive as so much new development in Baltimore has been by the Harbor and you can't get much closer to the Harbor than Piers V and VI. I personally think the site is too small for a venue and that the City should look elsewhere when redeveloping First Mariner Arena. Stay tuned for futures posts regarding this subject as I have ideas floating around. 
Next we come to 400 E. Pratt. St. This building is the first in the beginning of the revitalization of Pratt St. Pratt St. along the Inner Harbor had up until now been mostly Office Buildings and Hotels. In addition, the sidewalks are very wide and makes what little Retail offerings there were seem inaccessible. 400 E. Pratt St. remedied this by doing a Retail "bump out" in which a two story addition to the existing was built out of the original building towards Prat St. and was very successful in attracting new Retail tenants such as Shake Shack, CVS, and Chick Fillet among others. I hope this concept will be used for the TransAmerica building a few blocks over.
Next there's the surface parking that makes up 300 E. Pratt St. This block has had many proposals for high rises to replace the very out of place surface lot. Given that the rent on Pratt St. is among the highest in the Country hasn't helped in getting tenants to pre-sign leases. That being said, the current pan is to build a 48-50 story high rise on the site that's a mixture of Residential and Hotel Space with Ground Floor Retail. Residential has been virtually unused in this stretch of Pratt St. so it's interesting that this component is being introduced and I hope to see it built.
Next there's the Gallery sometimes known as the Galleria at 200 E. Pratt St. The part that faces Pratt St. is a mid rise whose first four floors are an indoor shopping mall while upper floors are part of the Renaissance Inner Harbor Hotel. In the back of the building is a sky scraper with Office Space. The fourth floor of the shopping mall portion of the Gallery is being transformed from Retail to Office Space. It is unknown at this time what changes if any will take place on the remaining three floors of the Mall.
Next we come to the Bank of America Center (not to be confused with the Historic Bank of America Building) located at 100 W. Pratt St. This Office Building will be following the example of 400 E. Pratt St. by getting a Retail "bump out" of its own. I remember parking at this building's underground garage and getting off the elevator in the lobby and I couldn't help notice how sparse it was. It had a small interior food court with a couple open eateries and a couple vacant one along with a newsstand. There was no way to entice outsiders to come in and patronize these businesses. I had been hoping that a Retail bump out would come to this building and hopefully by doing so it will encourage similar projects.
Next we come to  the McKeldin Fountain which is located between Light St. and Calvert St. and their intersection with Pratt St. This fountain to say the least was ugly. It was made of pure concrete and was hardly ever turned on. It had the same brutalist design as the Convention Center and the now demolished Mechanic Opera House. The McKeldin fountain, which will be demolished like the Mechanic Opera House. It will be replaced with a pocket park with lush green landscape as part of a larger project that will add more greenery to the Inner Harbor.
Last but not least we come to Harborplace. These two pavilion Shopping Malls are the epitome of the rebirth of the Inner Harbor in 1980. Had it not been for Harborplace, the widespread redevelopment on all sides of the Harbor may not have been so quick and/or dramatic. However, like any building it can be grow old and begin to look tired. This is why the Pratt St. pavilion is undergoing a major renovation. The renovation will include turning the first floor from a Shopping Mall to four large Retail spaces while the second floor will keep its Shopping Mall Routes. Banana Republic will move from the Gallery to fill one of these spaces. The Light St. Pavilion is also undergoing major renovations but it is less clear as to what the finished product will be.
As more development continues away from the Inner Harbor there's the always the possibility that those very developments are draining the vitality of the Inner Harbor itself. That's why it is crucial to make sure that development around the Harbor continues to keep the core of it just as modern and sought after as development hot spots in the City.   

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What's New In the Few Blocks Around the Harbor Part I South and West

For redevelopment in Baltimore, almost all of it has been made possible by the Inner Harbor and its revitalization in 1980 by the opening of Harbor Place followed by the homesteading in Otterbein, Federal Hill, and eventually water front redevelopment in Canton, Inner Harbor East, and Locust Point. Although the Inner Harbor redevelopment has spread like wildfire, it's always good to check up on the area immediately surrounding the Harbor itself to keep it as current as the new developments it inspired. This post new will examine new developments that are taking place within a block or two of the Harbor itself.
First there's the biggest or should I say tallest project; 414 Light St. this new glass skyscraper located at the very visible Light St. and Conway St. intersection has always been a gateway in and out of the City. It originally was part of the McCormick spice plant which moved to Hunt Valley. Between then and now, it has served as a very expensive surface parking lot. Developers have had plans for years to construct a skyscraper on this property but the economy hasn't allowed for it. Developers have waited patiently until they could secure the necessary funds and the development climate was such that development could commence.
Next there's Banner Hill Apartments. This is being built on the grounds where the University of Maryland Specialty Hospital had stood on S. Charles St. This hospital had been shut down long ago and its building sat vacant ever since. It was torn down in favor of Banner Hill Apartments in order to bring life to S. Charles St., Otterbein, and a link between Conway St. and South Baltimore. At the moment, Otterbein has relatively few Apartments consisting mostly of the old $1 row houses and some newer infill town homes. The new Banner Hill Apartments will certainly be easier on the eye as compared to the shuttered Hospital.
Next there's the redevelopment of rash field. A big hurdle that rash field has faced has been its popularity and the fact that there's very little parking for it. The solution, has been a multi level parking garage under the field. Although I believe this will solve the problem, this has brought the price tag up to $40 million. Obtaining funds for this has proven difficult but I believe it is necessary as the Harbor Promenade needs as much functional green recreational space as possible.   
Next there's the project known as Bainbridge Federal Hill. This will be located on a narrow on Key Highway just in front of Digital Harbor High School. Although this will mostly be Apartments, developers have opted to include town homes for the ground units facing Key Highway. This project has been controversial to say the least given the lot's size and the intrusion the building will have on the surrounding Neighborhood.
Next there's the ongoing development of Harborview built on the land that was originally the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard. The lone high rise of Harborview known as Harborview Towers has been joined by other components of the development including low rise Condos, Town homes, and "Pier Homes." These additional pieces of the development are not the entire development. There are still buildings of varying heights that have yet to be built. The two buildings that will be built first are Pinnacle I & II both located at the intersection of Key Highway and Pierside Drive. Pinnacle I will be considered a high rise though not as tall as Harborview Towers while Pinnacle II will be a low to mid rise building. The buildings will be narrow offering panoramic views in all directions. There are still more buildings proposed for Harborview each located on surface parking lots on either side of Little Havana. The new buildings have promised not to obstruct the views of the Harbor from Federal Hill Residents.
Next we come to what has been known as Federal Hill Town Homes. This development has become the epitome of the economic downturn of the mid to late 2000s. About half of the four level town homes were built then and were slow selling making the rest of the development stall. Finally in the last couple of years, the remaining home have begun to be built. However instead of four level town homes in order to make them more affordable have become two over two town homes of two levels each. This should make the last few units sell quicker.
Next we come to the General Shipyard Repair Corporation. This is one of the last remaining vestiges of the once industrial Key Highway but the owners have sold their land to a developer who plans to build an Apartment Building with ground floor Retail. Whether the building will be low or high rise is still to be determined. General Shipyard Repair Corporation is currently shopping for a new location and is hoping to stay at the Port of Baltimore.
Finally we come to Key Highway in between Woodall and Stevenson St. This thin swath of land currently has a few small vacant industrial buildings with row homes behind them. The plan is to put an Office Building at this site. Personally, I find an Office Building to be intrusive for that small site and would rather add town homes to it that fit into scale with the older row homes that are already there. These plans are still in their infancy so I'm unsure what will come to fruition.
As the gentrification caused by the Inner Harbor continues to spread across the City, we mustn't allow the Inner Harbor itself to become dated. Fortunately, there are many new development projects right at  the front door of the Inner Harbor which should keep it viable for years to come.