home Featured, Waterfront Planning and Development Areas that lack facilities and deficient of activities in Inner Harbor, Baltimore

Areas that lack facilities and deficient of activities in Inner Harbor, Baltimore

Tourism is an important phenomenon that boosts the economy of United States. Urban waterfronts have now become prime catalysts for generating tourism revenue and contributing to local economies. Inner Harbor, Baltimore is a well-known waterfront development that has transformed from a redundant space to the currently existing tourism space. Though Inner Harbor is a successful tourist destination, there are areas in the waterfront which requires careful planning and designing to lure more tourists and visitors. Activities and facilities are concentrated around the Harbor Place Gallery and the National Aquarium. The West Shore Park and the Pier 4 show increased visitor’s flow only due to seasonal events.

Though the promenade near the West Shore Park is busy due to the water activities nearby, the area does not have any activities to engage the visitors all year round. The South Shore Park where the Rash Field area is currently situated, the Pier 6, which has parking in the valuable open space and Harbor East are areas which are deficient of facilities and activities to draw visitors. The West Shore Park, the South Shore Park and the Pier 6 Parking areas are the prime spots for potential development. Though there is access provided throughout the waterfront through the promenade, the access through East Pratt Street and Light Street is easy and direct to all the attractions. Whereas the entries though the Key Highway and the Harbor East are all long and indirect to the main attraction area.

Sites that Lack Facilities in Inner Harbor, Baltimore

Source: Sketch by Josephine Selvakumar

Let’s gaze into the potential development sites of the Inner Harbor, Baltimore briefly:

Lack of Activities in Rash Field Area, South Shore Park
The South Shore Park does not show any activity throughout year. Moreover, there are no year round activities in Inner Harbor to occupy the visitors. Especially, there are no captivating activities in the waterfront during the winter season. The lot size of the area with the promenade is 307,040 SF and without the promenade is 193,088 SF. The existing zoning is B-5-IH and the area is currently used as volleyball field.

Existing Rash Field Area, South Shore Park

Source: Photograph by Josephine Selvakumar

Lack of Activities in West Shore Park
The West Shore Park is active only during seasonal events on summer and in fall like the Octoberfest, the Harbor Harvest. The area is an open space and it definitely needs a permanent facility to engage the visitors throughout the year. Moreover, new activities will incubate new businesses and employment. The area of the West Shore Park is 106,675 SF and the existing zoning is B-5-IH. The prevailing structures of the area are Walter Sondheim fountain, ice cream shop and Spirit Cruise ticketing area.

Existing conditions of the West Shore Park

Source: Photographs by Josephine Selvakumar

Parking in the Valuable Open Space of the Waterfront
There is parking in valuable open space of Piers 5 and 6, near Maryland Science Center and the Rusty Scupper. Parking is not a destination for visitors. As indicated by the Project for Public Space organization, parking should be off-site and access to the waterfront should be through multiple modes like buses, trollies, bikes and boats.The parking spaces should be converted to a good public open space for people to relax and interact. The city had put forward the proposal of Pierce Park for the public for an acre in the parking spot near the Columbus Center. The parking lot area near Columbus Center is 21,097 SF and that near the Concert Pavilion is 33,542 SF. The total parking area in the precious open space of the waterfront is 54,639 SF. The existing zoning is B-5-DC. Though the promenade near the West Shore Park is busy because of the Dinner Cruise and other water activities in that area, the stretch of water adjacent to Pier 6 has no engaging water activities. More activities should be focused in the water abutting the Pier 6.

Conditions of the Pier Parking

Source: Photographs by Josephine Selvakumar

Lack of Waterborne Transportation from Harbor to DC
There is strong regional connectivity through land and air to get to Baltimore and get around the Inner Harbor. However, except for the water taxis which take the visitors to different attractions within the Inner Harbor and the Dinner Cruise to the Francis Scott Key Bridge, there is no waterborne transportation from the Harbor to external locations. The activities on the water are also unevenly distributed. Tourists are always plentiful in Washington. Maryland being the adjacent to Washington, it can lure the tourists to Baltimore.

One way to attract tourists from Washington without the bustling traffic of land is through water. There is no water transportation to link Baltimore with Washington. Currently there are seven local ferries operating in Crisfield, Oxford, Point Lookout, Salisbury, Montgomery and Whitehaven in Maryland. As mentioned in the Washington Post, D.C. planned a ferry experiment and the Department of Transportation began considering several proposals for a commuter ferry service on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers from 2005.

There were also news and press release that in 2009, the Potomac Riverboat Company, based in Alexandria, Virginia, planned a ferry for 3,200 passengers across the Potomac River on seven climate-controlled boats. But none of the proposals were enacted and no thoughts were given to connect Washington with Baltimore through water. There are no thriving ferry services connecting Washington and Baltimore unlike New York, San Francisco and Seattle. As indicated by the Project for Public Space organization, in Sydney, Stockholm, Venice, Helsinki, and Hong Kong, people head to the waterfront via boat as much as by land. There are abundant precedents for ferry services and water borne transportation.

Lack of Waterborne Transportation from Harbor to Washington D.C

Source: Sketch by Josephine Selvakumar

Lack of Visual Qualities and Aesthetic Appearance
The visual qualities and aesthetic appearance of the buildings in the Inner Harbor facing the Pratt, Light and Key Highway Streets should be enhanced. The waterfront buildings facing their back to the Pratt and Light Streets are the first visible elements to tourists before reaching the waterfront. The loading docks and service tunnel in Light and Pratt Streets should be integrated into adjacent buildings. The bare wall and loading dock of Hooters Restaurant should also be redesigned in the intersection of Light and Conway Street. Dumpsters should be removed or made invisible in the waterfront buildings facing the Pratt and Light Streets. Though the water cannot be physically seen through all the streets surrounding the waterfront, the presence of waterfront should be made visible from the main streets. A visual sense of the presence of the waterfront should be created for the visitors even before they get to the spot. Harbor Place is also lacking unique places to eat and shop and is emblematic of the culture of the city.

Lack of Connectivity between the Neighborhoods and Destinations
The connectivity between the destinations should be strengthened. There should be a strong connection between the neighborhoods and the special district. The existing water taxi in Harbor has 17 landings connecting the attractions of Inner Harbor, Harbor East, Fells Point, Canton Waterfront Park, Fort McHenry and Tide Point. Since the developers are now showing interest in shoreline development in Middle Branch area too, water taxi connections should be made to the Middle Branch, a detached part of the harbor. As pointed out in the 2010 Baltimore Sun press release, the Business magnet John Paterakis had already started making plans for Harbor East as the high density area like a second downtown with raising towers of office and retail spaces. Baltimore officials are also creating a special district using tax incrementing process (TIF) to build offices, housing and retail spaces in the Harbor Point to compliment the Harbor East. There is no water taxi route to connect the new developments in Harbor East and Inner Harbor with the Middle Branch which will gravitate the visitors to the waterfront developments.

Lack of Water Taxi Connection from Harbor to Middle Branch

Source: Adapted from Google Map

No Provisions to touch the Water. Is the Water Clean and Safe?
Another major drawback in the waterfront is that people should interact more with the water and be able to touch it. There are no provisions for the people to touch and feel the water at the pier heads. Though the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore is taking various initiatives to enhance the waterfront environment and make it a swimmable, the water is still not clean in the harbor. People should touch the water in the future.

Identify Funding Sources – the Vital Component!
 As stated in the examiner press release, Pierce’s Park, which is planned for the one acre site on Pier 5 received a $1 million grant from the Maryland’s Board of Public Works. The Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore and the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance have also raised another $1 million for the proposed park. The existing water taxi network is made possible through the city and federal dollars.

In order to improve the areas that lack facilities and activities in the waterfront and to attract more visitors, a funding strategy should be made available by the joint venture of public-private partnership. The private investors, developers, city, public, Baltimore Development Corporation, Waterfront Partnership and other Philanthropic organizations should in conjunction provide the funding for improving the Inner Harbor area.

7 thoughts on “Areas that lack facilities and deficient of activities in Inner Harbor, Baltimore

  1. 1. I’m not certain how efficient (or financially sound) a ferry system would be to move people to and from D.C. especially in inclement weather from late fall to early spring when strolling the Inner Harbor is less pleasant. Perhaps the MARC train system with the Camden Station is better suited for D.C. residents if it could be operated during the weekends/later hours (and allow bikes to be taken to and from Baltimore).

    2. The points regarding the underutilized spaces around the inner harbor are well taken and need to be pursued by the city.

    3. The water in the harbor should NOT be touched as the bacterial counts render the water unsafe for swimming or other human contact after every rain event. Additionally, the water smells and is generally unpleasant in appearance.

    Remedying this is expensive (the City spends thousands of dollars each year in removing trash from the storm water systems) and it will required a paradigm shift in urban / land use planning to fully remedy the issue. Baltimore City should focus on ideas such as removing impervious surfaces (think parks with lots of trees in those under-used spaces around the harbor), green roof requirements, and higher costs for residential and commercial users of the sanitary water and sewer system to pay for the needed upgrades and ongoing repairs to an outdated and struggling system.

    4. Finally, the entire design of the harbor needs to be reconsidered from a more fundamental point. Although I fully appreciate the need for tax revenue and the design of the place as a semi-public area focused on the essentially meaningless consumption of goods in a manner that requires no real interaction with the City of Baltimore, I’d like to see more emphasis on moving visitors throughout the City (to the Zoo or the art district for example).
    The Charm City Circulator is one great step in that direction. Another would be the removal of a north/south and east/west set of streets from automobile traffic. Set St Paul and Pratt aside for bus and bike traffic (with truck delivery services in the evening) to bring people onto the streets.

    Residents of this City shouldn’t have to go on endlessly about its quirky charms to justify living here. They should be able to speak enthusiastically about how easy it is to walk, bike or take the bus, about how many wonderful public parks there are, about how the streets are clean, about how the schools work and are safe, and about how these are things that they moved here for.

    1. I disagree about parking. I don’t know when or understand why cars and driving suddenly became such a sin. Every effort in the Baltimore area over the last decades seems to have been making the area harder to drive in. Consequently the traffic is HORRENDOUS. Im sorry, but making it impossible to drive will not encourage more people to bike or walk, it will encourage people to go somewhere else. Only college kids and younsters see it as a good thing to make their lives harder by biking walking or taking the bus. Third world countries walk or bike because they have to since the roads are so bad and crowded. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see that as a desirable objective.

      driving is always the most convenient, direct, and speedy way of getting anywhere locally. What we need is affordable parking and much more of it. it’s really foolish to think you’ll encourage visitors by trying to force people on to buses or bikes by making driving and parking harder. All you do is make it such a pain to visit that no one will want to.

      If anything All the streets should be widened to allow more traffic to flow. Especially since someone in the past foolishly thought it would be okay to dump a main interstate (I83) right into the middle of a crowded downtown area with no outlet. And then residents wonder why traffic is bad? and then the solution is to make it worse? Baltimore isn’t a theme park where you park and take a shuttle to the entrance. It’s a city, and people need to flow as quickly and directly as possible.

  2. Adding to Roy Gothie’s detailed & very useful remarks, I’d begin at the end of those by asking, “…how about decent jobs, with reasonably predictable employment as the norm, as once held true in cities built around major harbors?”
    Tourism in non-tropical places is always seasonal; also, cities as such need more than water to compete for tourist visits (sports, museums, performing arts, historic places).
    Baltimore is fortunate in having a good portion of that (also, apparently, it hosted a near-legendary red light district for decades), but enough to draw visitors from Broadway shows? Or, the Washington Monument?
    An aspect of harborside tourism that is often overlooked is the marine industrial workings of the harbors themselves; these are often the most important “draw” for the tourists.
    Looking at water, going shopping or having a drink on a deck are rather widespread options for tourists, up & down the Atlantic & Pacific coasts.
    In my little city of Gloucester, Massachusetts, tourists repeatedly emphasize their desire to visit & return here to watch our commercial fishermen (while having that drink, etc.).
    I’ve found similar responses from harbor viewers in Manhattan, New Bedford, Norfolk, San Diego – &, for that matter, in London, Toulon, Gijon. The work activities fascinate people, more than boutiques or even elegant sailboats.
    Harborside cities grew up on the basis of marine industries, from freight hauling to fishing to shipbuilding.
    Water-borne freight transport now has obvious competition from air & trucking; however,it is still a significant factor in national economies – and, is still a major resource for economic regeneration of the municipal economies of harborside cities.
    Shipbuilding and commercial fishing are, at present, too much subject to national controls to revive a municipal economy on the scale of Baltimore’s.
    The real issue is where the freight might come from, within the U.S. or outside it, to make productive use of underutilized parcels – under the conditions of the current worldwide economic contraction.
    Cities, generally, need to explore the possibility of reviving the concept of tax-free enterprise zones for real job-creating & job-sustaining industries, to revive the virtuous cycle of growing employment & correspondingly growing (vs. dead-end) wages, inventive productivity gains, & a DECREASING need for tax increases to pay for municipal services.
    In the meantime, sprucing up appearances so as not to offend leisured tourists is fine.
    I do disagree with Roy’s comment about “…consumption of meaningless goods.”
    Roy, with respect, that’s an old leftist canard, without basis in any economic theory, or in market-based fact.
    People in Baltimore buying and selling stuff WILL help people in Baltimore – the question, as your overall points emphasize is how much, & how effectively for Baltimore’s real economic revival.
    Of greater effect, modifying local traffic/transport patterns for better access can be of great help – IF, & only if, a comprehensive metropolitan-wide transportation plan can create parking nodes linked to rapid local shuttle links, etc.; along with clean routes for truck-to-pier round trips; & all the related adjustments to the street/road layout that we’ve inherited from the days of horse-drawn transport.
    Water taxis, to my knowledge, are not economic.
    For that matter, neither is passenger rail, anywhere.
    If passenger transit is deemed crucial to helping Baltimore revive, then subsidies for it will require serious revenue, which can only come from business growth.
    Focusing on the intrinsic business base of Baltimore as the source of revenue for its own needs will be crucial to Baltimore’s eventual success.
    The customary alternative of essentially begging higher levels of government for tax-based grants (beg now, tax later) is unlikely to do more in the future than it has done up to now, which is, basically, to charge on credit, & hope (hope someone else is taxed…).

  3. Some additional thoughts:

    Increased port activity would indeed be a boon to Baltimore and it is coming in the near future. As I understand it, the Panama Canal is being substantially widened and deepened as we speak and multiple ports on the eastern coast of the United State are dredging to accommodate the already designed transport ships. With the possibility additional shipping traffic Baltimore might capitalize on its current excellent ranking as 11th nationally for total value of cargo and 13th for tonnage handled (U.S. Census report). FYI, currently, traffic through the Port of Baltimore accounts for 16,700 direct jobs and 120,000 other jobs are linked to the Port activities

    Additionally, Baltimore’s Port Authority is moving ahead with plans to not only improve and expand port facilities but to address freight bottlenecks through the streets surrounding the port. Currently, there are fairly severe congestion issues as freight trucks attempt to service the 2000+ ships utilizing the existing port facilities each year and then leaving to access the regional freight corridors. Part of the revitalization of the Harbor and Baltimore in general would have to include plans to address freight movement.

    Another point that worth mentioning is how the Inner Harbor and the Port will need to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Increases in rainfall, storm surge, peak and median summer temperatures, and storm intensities ought to be considered as planners and landscape architects consider what facilities are necessary and appropriate. This is especially important in the Fells Point area which already floods regularly.

  4. I really enjoyed the post. It is always nice when you read something that is not only informative but entertaining. Outstanding.

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