A new vision for Market Place Plan: A private task force seeks ways to strengthen the link between the Inner Harbor tourism district and the neighborhoods and attractions east of downtown.

Urban Landscape

January 15, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

BALTIMORE'S Market Place corridor would be redesigned to serve as a staging area for ethnic festivals, farmers' markets, crafts fairs and other outdoor events, if city leaders adopt the recommendations of design consultants hired to suggest ways to add life to the east side of downtown.

The architectural firm of Cho, Wilks and Benn heads a design team that has proposed several strategies for converting a two-block stretch of Market Place, from Pratt Street to Water Street, into a temporary market place and festival site by narrowing traffic lanes and increasing the amount of land available for pedestrians.

Cho Wilks prepared its studies for the East Side Task Force, a private group that has been searching for ways to strengthen connections between the Inner Harbor tourism district and the attractions and neighborhoods east of downtown.

The task force asked the designers to suggest ways to encourage pedestrians to walk from the Inner Harbor to Market Place, where a $30 million children's museum called Port Discovery is scheduled to open within a year inside the former city fish market.

Market Place is also the location of the former Brokerage shopping and office complex, for which the city is seeking redevelopment proposals.

Baltimore Development Corp. acquired the property several years ago and has set March 9 as the deadline for bids.

Baltimore has needed a staging area for festivals and outdoor markets since Festival Hall was demolished several years ago to make way for an expansion of the Convention Center, according to Andrew Frank, a senior development director for the Baltimore Development Corp. and a liaison between the BDC and the East Side Task Force.

Task force members believe that Market Place would be an ideal location for civic festivals if it were reconstructed to provide room for temporary market stalls, canopies and electrical hookups needed by vendors and performers, Frank said.

The festivals and temporary market activity would, in turn, call attention to the area and help fulfill the goal of adding life to the areas east of downtown, he said.

"The task force has expressed a clear desire to turn Market Place into a market place again" and to create a fountain or other water feature near the harbor, said architect Barbara Wilks.

"The idea is to activate the whole area so people will walk from the Inner Harbor to the children's museum" and other east-side destinations, she said.

In a presentation last week to Baltimore's Architectural Review Board, Wilks noted that Market Place is 121 feet wide and that most of the width is devoted to traffic lanes and parking space on either side of a 41-foot-wide median.

Wilks and associate Jillian Storms say the traffic lanes could be narrowed to 28 feet each, and the width of the median could be increased to 65 feet -- a more comfortable dimension for pedestrians -- without the loss of any parking spaces.

Another alternative, they say, would be to eliminate southbound traffic and parking lanes on Market Place and widen the median even more.

The designers are working to finish their Market Place report within the next month as part of a larger set of urban design recommendations.

If Market Place does become a staging area for festivals, they say, it might be closed to traffic entirely on weekends when festivals are held.

Idea for candy factory remains on the shelf

An idea for Market Place that might never materialize is a plan for a Willy Wonka-style candy factory and museum above Bennigan's restaurant in the Bazaar building connected to the Brokerage complex.

The owners of Mary Sue Candies proposed the $3 million candy museum several years way to create an attraction that would provide jobs and complement the children's museum, and Baltimore Development Corp. gave them an exclusive negotiating period to firm up plans for the space.

But Mary Sue merged with Naron Candy Co. to form Naron Mary Sue Candies and did not move ahead with the project.

Vice President Mark Berman said company officials have focused on increasing their candy production and haven't had time to pursue the development.

He said he remains interested in the project but cannot devote time to it until after Easter -- the big sales season for Mary Sue Easter eggs.

The team's exclusive negotiating period has expired, and the city's development agency has begun to seek other bids for the space above Bennigan's as part of its request for proposals from developers interested in recycling the Brokerage.

Pub Date: 1/15/98

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