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.