Changing Baltimore's Skyline

January 01, 1992

Baltimore's skyline and public transit system will undergo a dramatic change in the next 12 months. Much of that change will be triggered by the new $105 million Orioles baseball stadium at Camden Yards, a striking new symbol for downtown renewal visible from interstate highways.

The first stretch of the $446.3 million Central Light Rail Line will start operating in time for the Orioles April 6 opening day, linking the stadium and Timonium with state-of-the-air streetcars. As a result, the routes of many MTA buses will be reconfigurated. Existing commuter train service from Camden Station, next to the stadium, to Washington's Union Station also will be expanded.

These alone would be headline events. But they are only a few of the major physical changes downtown that are not merely planned but a virtual certainty in 1992. Among the others:

* Harborview, a 27-story waterfront tower housing 254 condominium units, will be ready for occupancy along Key Highway, near Federal Hill. It is the first stage of an ambitious $700 million residential, retail and recreational community planned for the area during the next 12 years.

* Commerce Place, a stately 30-story office high-rise costing $90 million, will open at Baltimore and South streets, on the fringes of The Block. It is a daring leapfrog of new construction into a seedy area that is ripe for redevelopment.

* The $121 million Veterans Administration Medical Center will open its doors at Baltimore and Greene Streets. This is part of the transformation of the UniversityCenter area, where University Maryland institutions are embarking on $380 million worth of new projects.

There is much more. Construction of a $37 million tower for federal offices starts soon on Howard Street, across from the Baltimore Arena. Work on the $164 million Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Research and Exploration should get under way at Piers 5 an 6, as should site preparation at Inner Harbor East, a $350 million community planned for an 20-acre waterfront parcel south of Little Italy. And the fate of the $800 million Medical Trade Mart, proposed on a site near the new stadium, ought to be known by August.

Each of these projects will draw new investments to surrounding areas. The Culinary Arts Institute's decision to relocate its main campus to a site along Central Avenue, north of the planned Inner Harbor East, underscores that notion.

What an exciting year!

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