No unified vision for city's east side Planning: Someone needs to look at big picture as shoreline is transformed at harbor's edge.

June 22, 1998

GROUNDBREAKING for the $139 million Wyndham hotel is the most visible sign of the dramatic transformation of East Baltimore's "Gold Coast," from Little Italy to Canton.

Former lumber yards and industrial sites are giving way to snazzy luxury developments.

Formstone facades on rowhouses are being stripped away as blue-collar neighborhoods undergo gentrification.

City Hall played a pivotal role in orchestrating the Inner Harbor renewal in the 1970s. But as the momentum shifts east of downtown, private investment -- albeit with city aid -- is driving changes there. No master plan exists to guide redevelopment.

The lack of a unified vision is particularly evident in the area surrounding the Wyndham site and Inner Harbor East.

For example, the city is entertaining three overlapping plans to spruce up the area between the soon-to-open Port Discovery children's museum and the Flag House Courts public housing project, which is slated for demolition.

Ideas include turning President Street -- the access route to the Jones Falls Expressway -- into a gateway for existing and planned attractions, which include a new African-American museum.

The former City Life Museums complex would become a visitors center.

Charleston, S.C., successfully expanded its tourism area by placing a visitors center outside the main attractions of the historic district. Baltimore could conceivably do the same.

What troubles us, is that these options are not discussed in a wider context of East Baltimore development, including the future of Central Avenue.

This roadway's importance as a north-south conduit grows as old industrial sites are redeveloped in Inner Harbor East and Fells Point. Among them are the unoccupied 25-acre AlliedSignal waterfront parcel and sizable cleared acreage controlled by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s Constellation Real Estate Group. To the north lie vast expanses of industrial parcels that should grow in value as redevelopment progresses.

This metamorphosis offers Baltimore a rare growth opportunity that should not be squandered. Piecemeal planning won't do. An overall blueprint is needed to take advantage of the potential of the east side's old industrial waterfront.

Pub Date: 6/22/98

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