Above the crowd, a place to learn Tower: It's free, it's new and it's at the Inner Harbor. And it's educational.

Urban Landscape

June 18, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

TO EXPERIENCE the latest attraction in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, you won't have to pay an admission fee or stand in long lines.

But you will have to do some climbing if you want to get the full effect of the design.

The Rouse Flick Learning Tower is the name of a 75-foot-tall wooden observation tower that has taken shape on a city-owned pier that contains the East Harbor campus of the Living Classrooms Foundation.

Featuring panoramic views of the harbor and downtown skyline, the $160,000 tower was constructed to supplement the teaching programs of the nonprofit foundation, which provides hands-on education and employment training for young people.

It will be dedicated next week with the Weinberg Education Center, a two-story building next to it on the pier at 802 S. Caroline St.

"This is the final piece of construction on the Living Classrooms' East Harbor campus and very much becomes a signature structure" for it, foundation president James Piper Bond said of the tower.

The tower is a learning laboratory that offers a gateway to the waterfront for disadvantaged students and others assisted by the foundation.

It will be an extension of the programs at the Weinberg Center, where students learn about environment-related subjects such as water quality, air quality, soil studies and the Chesapeake Bay.

It is also a memorial, named in honor of two people who never knew each other but who embodied traits that reflect the foundation's mission.

One is James Rouse, the Maryland-born developer and humanitarian who died in 1996 at age 81 and whose visionary thinking changed communities around the world. The other is Elizabeth Flick, a McDonogh School student who died in 1980 at the age of 13 in a camping accident in Wisconsin.

Visible throughout the harbor area, the tower symbolizes "the vision that James Rouse represents and the great potential of youth that Elizabeth Flick represents and that is central to the mission of the Living Classrooms Foundation," Bond said.

Major donors for the tower were Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, a Baltimore-based developer and contractor, and the Elizabeth Flick Charitable Foundation, established by the Flick family of Baltimore.

Other donors included Ryland Group, Allied Signal, Capital One Financial Corp., A.R. Burdette, Atlantic Scaffolding Co., D&H Carpentry, Greenway Crane Service, Douglas Grinath, Martin G. Imbach Inc., Jarvis Lumber, McClinch Rental, McMillen Bloedel, RTKL Associates and Siems Rental and Sales Co. RTKL Associates was the tower's architect, and Struever Bros. was the contractor.

The tower will house several interactive "learning stations" designed to offer a variety of educational experiences. At ground level, a mathematical station will challenge students to determine the height of the structure by estimation, Pythagorean theorem and constructing an "inclinometer." Students will cook their lunches in a solar oven and ride an "energy cycle" that enables them to generate electricity.

The tower's top level, 99 steps above the ground, will feature sources of alternative energy, including a windmill-powered generator and photovoltaic cells. Capable of holding 40 people at a time, this platform will house delicate equipment and control panels that students can use to monitor weather and gain information about the tower's energy production. Historical photos of the city will show how the harbor front changed over time, and a bell from McShane Foundry will ring on the hour.

The tower also will have a movable "harbor cam" at the top to capture the views from there and show them on a screen below. Its ground level will house displays that mirror those on the top level.

The camera and ground-level displays are being installed to make the educational experience accessible to people in wheelchairs and others who can't climb to the top, in compliance with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. "Anything we do educational at the top of the tower will be accessible at the bottom," Bond said.

The tower will be used as part of the foundation's regular teaching programs starting June 29 and will be open to the public when the Living Classrooms pier is open.

Bond said he expects about 50,000 visitors a year.

Wyndham groundbreaking set for this morning

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and James D. Carreker, chief executive officer of Wyndham International Inc., will preside over a groundbreaking ceremony todayat 10: 30 a.m. for Baltimore's newest hotel, the $134 million, 750-room Wyndham hotel planned for Aliceanna and Lancaster streets in the Inner Harbor East renewal area.

Pub Date: 6/18/98

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