Hopkins Plaza undergoing renovation Parts of skywalk to be dismantled, area to be repaved, landscaped

November 17, 1997|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

A map in Monday's editions indicated that a pedestrian bridge spanning Lombard Street just west of Charles Street will be torn down as part of the Hopkins Plaza renovations. The bridge will not be taken down.

The Sun regrets the error

The city of Baltimore has begun a $4 million renovation of Hopkins Plaza by demolishing sections of the little-used pedestrian skywalk system that runs through the area.

Contractors have torn down much of a concrete stairway near the entrance to the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre. By the end of the year, they will remove elevated walkways along the west side of the theater and the south side of the Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust Co. building on Hopkins Plaza.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

After the walkways are gone, the city plans to upgrade the public plaza with new paving, landscaping, a police "koban" -- or kiosk -- electric service and lighting.

The work also includes waterproofing the roofs of garages beneath the plaza, repairing the fountain in the plaza and constructing a new marquee for the 30-year-old Mechanic theater.

The skywalks are being removed to give the area more visibility and a greater sense of openness, said Paul Dombrowski, director of planning and design for the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development agency.

"The primary concern is one of opening up the plaza for better views and better security," he said.

Dating from the late 1960s, the overhead walkways have long needed repairs that would be costly to complete, such as fixing an escalator near Baltimore Street that has been broken for years.

Rather than spend money to correct all the deficiencies, Dombrowski explained, the agency and its design consultants decided to remove certain sections of the walkway system and make improvements to the plaza itself.

The work is being launched several years after the city removed pedestrian walkways around Center Plaza, just north of Hopkins Plaza. They were taken down after urban experts concluded that overhead walkways draw life and activity from public streets, and that the retailers and others would benefit if more pedestrians were at street level and not split between the street and skywalk levels.

Although the skywalk system was built as part of Charles Center, the 33-acre renewal project that launched Baltimore's renaissance, the demolition activity has drawn no objections from property owners, Dombrowski said. "We have had solid support from all of the stakeholders around the plaza."

Hopkins Plaza is bounded roughly by Baltimore Street on the north, Hopkins Place on the west, Lombard Street on the south and Charles Street on the east.

The renovation work is a venture of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's Department of Public Works and the Downtown Partnership, an organization of businesses and property owners.

I. A. Construction Co. of White Marsh is the general contractor for the demolition work, which is expected to cost about $500,000. The Public Works Department is providing funds for that portion of the work, which will continue through the end of the year, according to spokesman Kurt L. Kocher.

Hord, Coplan & Macht is the architect for the plaza improvements. They are expected to cost about $3.5 million, with funds coming from the BDC and the Downtown Partnership, Kocher said.

Work on the improvements is expected to begin next spring and be completed by mid-1999.

The work will be coordinated so that public access is maintained to the buildings within the construction zone, according to Dombrowski.

Demolition will not result in the removal of the footbridge over Baltimore Street or the walkway between the Baltimore Hilton and Omni hotels, he added.

Pub Date: 11/17/97

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