Larry Reich

September 23, 1994

Baltimore was fortunate to have Larry Reich as its planning director from 1965 to 1990, a time when the city experienced a rebirth because of the Inner Harbor and other redevelopments. His standards were high -- and he did not fear to speak out.

Larry Reich, who died Saturday at 75 (a memorial service will be held today), did not design anything. But his handiwork is widely visible.

Pratt Street became the wide signature street it is today because of him. He championed the rebuilding of City Hall (and won over then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer), when others were ready to have it demolished. He campaigned against destructive expressways and contributed to the salvation of Fells Point, Federal Hill and Leakin Park. And on his insistence for public access to the water, the Inner Harbor today is being ringed by a seven-mile pedestrian promenade.

Larry Reich was fascinated by and believed in cities. He also believed in regionalism. In his final years, he was profoundly grieved by the demise of an effective regional planning body in the Baltimore area. He felt the suburbs had a moral responsibility to cooperate with the city in seeking solutions to urban problems.

"The city of Baltimore makes the suburbs possible because we carry the burdens," he once said. "Why should we keep carrying the burden?"

Mr. Reich's opposition to destructive expressways was grounded in his belief that a city was a fragile unit that had to be safeguarded. Many others of his uncompromising stands -- he was against the visual pollution of billboards and thought most high-rise buildings unadvisable -- were explained by this belief, which he freely expressed and taught to younger planners who worked under his stewardship.

Larry Reich deserves the city's gratitude.

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