Cleveland takes cue from Baltimore

URBAN LANDSCAPE

September 07, 1995|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Sun Staff Writer

When Cleveland unveiled its Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum last weekend, its refurbished waterfront bore an uncanny resemblance to Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

And the similarities are likely to become even more striking as additional elements take shape.

Cleveland planners studied Baltimore's redeveloped harbor closely before they transformed a portion of the Lake Erie shoreline to serve as a backdrop for the $92 million shrine to rock 'n' roll.

As a result, the area around the Rock Hall contains the same kit of parts as Baltimore's harbor basin, including a promenade, park, marina, benches, maritime exhibits and other tourist amenities.

From certain angles, the Rock Hall looks remarkably like the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Both are seven stories high. Both have similarly proportioned glass pyramids that point skyward. Both have a network of stairs, escalators, bridges and balconies that crisscross the interior space, and upper-level lookout points that provide panoramic views of the water.

"Baltimore is one of the cities that we looked at as a model," says Hunter Morrison, director of city planning for Cleveland since 1981. "I was at the opening of Harborplace and studied it very carefully," even counting paces while walking along the brick promenade to get its dimensions, he said.

As a result, he said, Cleveland's planners ended up making urban design decisions "that came out of Baltimore's experience" -- the relationship of the urban setting to the water and the way certain buildings line up to create view corridors.

* Providing continuous public access along the waterfront and creating open space for community events.

* Building skywalks to carry pedestrians across busy streets from parking garages to the waterfront.

* Creating a hierarchy of object-like "foreground buildings" along the shore and less sculptural "background buildings" that work together as a unified composition in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

* Developing a critical mass of downtown attractions designed to lure tourists as well as area residents. Besides the aquarium, Baltimore has Harborplace, the Maryland Science Center, the Convention Center, and Rash Field. Cleveland has a convention center near the lake, is building a science and technology museum, and has plans to turn the docked William G. Mather steamship into a complex of shops and restaurants.

Also, Cleveland's open-air ballpark for the Indians, with its natural grass and asymmetrical playing field, is a near-clone of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and was designed by the same architects. Cleveland's Civic Vision 2000 plan also calls for construction of a large aquarium.

Baltimore's waterfront has some natural advantages over Cleveland's. Baltimore has carved out a much larger area for tourism -- about 92 acres, compared with seven in Cleveland. The stretch of waterfront set aside for the Rock Hall is hemmed in by the old Cleveland Stadium on one side and a lakefront airport on the other.

Another difference between the shorelines is that Cleveland has erected bollards and chains along the edge to prevent people from falling in the water, while Baltimore has no barriers.

One feature that Cleveland intentionally avoided is a festival nTC marketplace similar to the Rouse Co.'s Harborplace pavilions.

"People have said to us, "Why don't you just bring in Rouse?' " Mr. Morrison said. "What we wanted to do is a Cleveland setting and a Cleveland experience," Mr. Morrison said.

While it's natural for one city to learn from others' successes, he added, Cleveland has tried to do more than copy others.

"I hope we can say we've gone the next step," he said. "What we've learned is not just the formula. We've learned the logic."

Future of the city

On Nov. 10 and 11, the Maryland Institute College of Art will be the setting for a far-reaching symposium on the future of Baltimore. Entitled "Rethinking the City," the conference will bring nationally prominent urban strategists together with local leaders to discuss ways to keep Baltimore and other cities vital.

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