Inner Harbor's Eastward Push

April 13, 1994

Some people like what they see; others are vocally critical. External surface panels are being installed at the Inner Harbor site of the $160 million Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Biotechnology. Soon, the Teflon-coated fabric roof will be stretched over the three-level exhibition hall. It should be quite a sight.

The rapidly progressing Columbus Center is the most visible activity transforming the Inner Harbor and pushing it eastward. It is not the only one.

Without any fanfare, multi-million-dollar infrastructure work at Inner Harbor East has given that 20-acre waterfront parcel south of Little Italy a street grid and old-fashioned lamp posts. A marina is being constructed on the water's edge and should be open this summer. Meanwhile, the developers, Gilbane Properties and baking magnate John Paterakis, are working on obtaining financing for what they hope will be a $350 million mixed-use project of offices, residences and shops.

The site, with an entrance at the foot of President Steet, is now open to strollers going from the Inner Harbor to Fells Point. It offers wonderful views of Harborplace and other tourist attractions. Yet southeast of it is another large development parcel that may some day contain residences and offices with breathtaking downtown vistas.

That is the 15-acre AlliedSignal property, a chrome-contaminated wasteland being turned into a safe platform for future construction. If AlliedSignal gets federal and state environmental approvals, a hydraulic barrier -- 70 feet deep and three feet thick -- will be built by September. Construction of a final cap to contain pollution will then follow early next year. After the $90 million cleanup is completed, the site could be offered for redevelopment in 1996.

An early plan called for the construction of a dramatic performing arts center on the water's edge at the AlliedSignal site. Since both Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke now back such a center for Mount Royal, that idea has been shelved. But the Maryland Port Authority is working on a proposal to use part of the AlliedSignal parcel as a passenger terminal for cruise ships sailing out of Baltimore.

With the economic climate improving, Baltimore is positioning itself to take advantage of the next real-estate upturn. The plans may sound ambitious. But the history of the Inner Harbor shows that even the boldest ideas can be realized. It's vision and determination that count.

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