Of museums, peace and a shared vision

Inner Harbor: The waterfront is a place where diverse attractions can co-exist -- and thrive.

May 17, 1999

THE MARYLAND Science Center breaks all-time attendance records and plans expansion. Port Discovery exceeds its membership projections. The National Historic Seaport is unveiled. The National Aquarium draws record crowds and announces plans for a multimillion-dollar expansion.

Not so long ago, Baltimore seemed to have reached its max on museums near the Inner Harbor: The City Life Museums closed. The exhibit hall at the Columbus Center shut down.

More recent announcements, however, suggest the doom and gloom may have been misplaced or premature -- at least when it comes to enterprises that relentlessly promote themselves as world-class attractions for visitors and Baltimoreans alike.

It's in this context that the detente between the board of the aquarium and developer David Cordish should be viewed. Their negotiated settlement, which ends a war of words that raged too long, allows for the expansion of the aquarium and of Mr. Cordish's successful nearby venture, the Power Plant.

That is not peace at any price, but a win-win situation that speaks well of the potential for not-for-profit attractions and commercial ventures to not only co-exist but thrive. The city should expect to see more such cooperation and joint efforts.

Inevitably, other disputes will arise about future Inner Harbor projects; unanimity is rare on an issue such as waterfront development, which so often provokes emotional responses.

Mr. Cordish's earlier proposal for a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. floating restaurant alongside the aquarium raised legitimate aesthetic concerns among people who have grown protective of the once-neglected Baltimore shoreline.

But the "peace [that] has broken out in the Inner Harbor" -- as Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke described this new spirit of cooperation between Mr. Cordish and the aquarium -- bodes well for Baltimore's Inner Harbor and beyond.

Pub Date: 5/17/99

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