One Harborplace veteran isn’t sure Baltimore’s new designs are for her

One Harborplace veteran isn’t sure Baltimore’s new designs are for her

I was looking forward to news about potential replacements for Harborplace — the 43-year-old former jewel in Baltimore’s tourism crown — with the same feverish anticipation with which I await every new cast on Dancing With The Stars. Which means I was giddy. Psychologically seriously.

If you didn’t grow up here, those old, faded green buildings at Pratt and Light streets might seem useless, just an empty shell of the past. But in the past, it was the town square, the center of activity not only for tourists but for residents as well. Young people from all over the area travel by bus or flight with their best friends to hang out, grab a cheap slice of pizza, buy a trendy skirt, or perhaps, like me, slap on an apron and name tag and pin some candy to pay for their prom tickets. Everyone was down there. It was a loud, crowded party, and it was accessible to everyone.

Which is why the unveiling of designs for the project by MCB Real Estate last week was disappointing. interesting. imaginary. But missing something. I am not an expert in architecture, design, or urban planning. I’m just a girl from Baltimore, standing before potential new plans for the Inner Harbor Hub, wondering how welcoming they will be to the public at large.

What is the story of that aerial gondola?

I want you to know that I am not one of those old students who refuses to change. I have no strange attachment to those green wings. They meant a lot to me, but I know they are outdated and neglected. Furthermore, the mall culture that supported a retail and restaurant-based model no longer exists. These buildings must come down, and something else must replace them that will attract business, visitors and money.

I just don’t know if this is it.

My first question is about audience accessibility. I like the idea of ​​the amphitheater and park, the multiple green spaces, and most importantly, the pedestrian-friendly changes that get rid of the weird traffic island on Light Street. But there’s also mention of a 50,000-square-foot rooftop garden on a building on Pratt Street. There were no details about the logistics of this. Is it common? How will people reach it? Is it a ticket? Is there a cost associated with it? Anytime a space is inside a building, there may be rules about access.

As some readers have said, the design of the four proposed buildings appears to obstruct the view of the harbor somewhat. I’ve lived in neighborhoods where new construction limits visual access to the water, which is what made those locations attractive in the first place. There’s something comforting about being able to see the waterline from the street. But trees and buildings seem to obscure it.

The plans also include two proposed residential towers containing approximately 900 residential units. Mixed-use properties are very popular and make a lot of sense. When you have people who live in or near retail and restaurants, you have a built-in market for those services.

But according to, there are already about 1,200 rental units available in area code 21201, where the project is located, so I wonder if more housing is the answer. Will people living in those units, which are likely to be relatively expensive, want to share that space — even the parts reserved for the public? Would you be welcome?

When it worked, the beauty of the Inner Harbor wasn’t just the restaurants, the kite shop or the paddle boats. It was people. I know that the region has not opened its arms to everyone; I had a friend who taught in Bigtown in the 1990s, and she said a lot of her students had never been to Harborplace before because they felt it wasn’t for them. I worry that the new design, with its custom residence and that rooftop garden, feels exclusive rather than inclusive.

The design, as many have pointed out, is also out of keeping with the rest of the area. I like that it’s futuristic, but it doesn’t seem to fit, including that building with the retractable roof. Although I love the creativity and applaud the creators for taking a big step towards the fences, I’m not yet excited about the proposed changes. It’s hard to look forward to using a space that you’re not sure wants you there.

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