Better Do Nothing

May 17, 1994

It usually takes some trial-and-error experiences in life to realize that the best course of action in some situations is to do nothing. We suspect that Baltimore's crab park is one such situation.

The Baltimore Development Corp., the quasi-governmental agency coordinating public development in the city, wants to give the fringes of the Inner Harbor a $7.5 million face-lift before Baltimore's bicentennial in 1997. Earlier this year, it picked the Schwartz/Design Collective joint venture to develop a concept for turning some 20 acres of land from Conway Street to the Rusty Scupper restaurant into a "destination." In essence, that joint venture proposed the Chesapeake Bay blue crab as the unifying theme. It wanted to construct crab-like mounds in Rash Field and erect crab-like lamps on Conway Street. Our advice to the city: Let's not rush into anything.

Caution seems the best course because so many things are already evolving along Key Highway. That old freight road is now torn up so that it can be turned into a landscaped boulevard that will provide another entryway from an interstate to the harbor.

Meanwhile, a novel $6.5 million exhibit space, the American Visionary Art Museum, is being constructed and there is talk about other museums as well. The area south of the harbor is in such a flux that it is difficult to predict what it will be like in just a few years.

It would be foolhardy to build crab mounds at a time like this on Rash Field. Such a peculiar landscaping effort would most likely be a mere interim use for this sizable parcel which will be a pivotal link between the harbor's current main attractions and the developing Key Highway exhibits. Why spend a considerable amount of money on a new temporary solution when the current Rash Field itself is a temporary solution?

It is good that planners are taking an imaginative look at the Inner Harbor and on ways to tie it to such nearby crowd draws as Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Indeed, the Baltimore Development Corp. should draw up a master plan for the future development of the harbor beyond its current limits so that a piecemeal hodgepodge is averted.

Today's Inner Harbor is a peculiar mixture of excellence and stupidity. The two pavilions of Harborplace are monuments to successful conception and operation; the out-of-scale

Constellation Center and failed Harrison's Inn are blunders. Let's insist on excellence and prevent further mistakes.

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