New look sought for harbor's south and west sides City wants increased use of Rash Field

October 16, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

Hoping to encourage greater public use of a stretch of waterfront parkland that has become Baltimore's front yard, the Schmoke administration has launched an international design competition to generate ideas for Rash Field and the west shore of the Inner Harbor.

The Baltimore Development Corp. advertised yesterday for expressions of interest from landscape architects, urban designers, architects and sculptors who would like to propose ways to revamp 20.6 acres of the Inner Harbor shoreline south of the twin pavilions of Harborplace.

Armed with an "open-space concept plan" from the competition winner, the city will then spend up to $8 million over the next several years to improve the park property, which stretches from the Light Street pavilion south to the Maryland Science Center and then east toward the Rusty Scupper restaurant.

The project marks the first major changes proposed in more than a decade for the west and south shores. It coincides with a new push by the Schmoke administration and its Economic Incentives Task Force to showcase the city's offerings in the areas of tourism, entertainment and culture.

"We want to utilize the talent of the urban design community to enhance the Inner Harbor," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

The city would like to see the areas developed into "active open spaces which would not only provide respite for visitors to the area attractions but also contribute to the learning experience about Baltimore, the environment, the Chesapeake Bay and the state," said Shubroto Bose, director of architecture and urban design for the Baltimore Development Corp.

Planners want the two areas to become "destination attractions" that may contribute to the city's economy, said Mr. Bose, who will oversee the competition.

Under the competition rules, the 20.6 acres must remain public parkland; ideas for commercial development won't be entertained. But the city is considering placing a visitors center on the west shore.

Finalists selected in December will be paid $7,500 each to prepare drawings that show how they would revamp the shoreline. The team with the best design, as judged by a blue-ribbon panel in February, is to be hired to prepare a master plan. Construction is to begin in 1995, with funds coming from bond issues and other sources.

The western shore was converted from shipping uses to public parkland in the 1970s. But much of the area has been reserved for parking, a use not permitted under the harbor's renewal plan.

Joseph H. Rash Memorial Park was designed by RTKL Associates and created at a cost of $2.3 million in 1976. The city intended to use the area during the day as a practice field for Southern High School and to accommodate amateur athletic events and neighborhood gatherings.By 1978, the property had become a staging area for large festivals, and Southern High stopped using it.

In the late 1970s, city officials agreed to include Rash Field and the western shore within a 33-acre tract of parkland designated to ring the harbor after Harborplace opened in 1980. Other parkland is used for McKeldin Fountain and landscaped terraces on the north shore.

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