In Dundalk, the trained eye of Peter Batchelor saw worldly treasures in giant rusted gears, magic in the name of Doolittle and an untapped celebration of a rich past to spring into a modern future.
Batchelor, a noted professor of architecture and urban design, led an 11-member team of professionals that unveiled yesterday a stunning array of design dreams for the eastern Baltimore County community, which has languished in a rust belt of closed shipyards and downsized steel plants.
"The consciousness of the great history of Dundalk was seemingly buried in the minds of the proud people who live here," said Batchelor. "We found a fertile field, things and events that had impact worldwide."
The Urban Design Assistance Team, working closely with two citizen groups, saw two major priorities for Dundalk: engaging Baltimore and capitalizing on the more than 64 miles of waterfront, much blocked by chain-link fences, railroad tracks or blocks of properties that have become physical barriers to the rivers and creeks.
"The road connections into Dundalk are torturous," said Batchelor. "They don't encourage people to come here. We'd like to see Boston Street come into Dundalk more smoothly, have Broening Highway lead right into the heart of Dundalk."
With no interference from the county, the design team spent a week visiting neighborhoods, touring the shorefront by boat and listening to local residents.
The team members were unpaid volunteers in an American Institute of Architects program that has helped modernize more than 140 American cities since 1970.
For his part, Batchelor mapped out a "Technology Trail" from Colgate Creek to the Dundalk Village Shopping Center and beyond to Heritage Park. Other highlights of the overall proposal include a land-based lighthouse at the end of a streetscaped Dundalk Avenue, a heritage center in Turners Station, more inviting traffic gateways into Dundalk and better use of old whiskey distillery buildings.
At water's edge, Batchelor envisioned boats connecting to the Inner Harbor, a museum with a tower offering a vista of the waterfront and a trail dotted with symbols of Dundalk's past: ore carts, huge steam pipes, gears, all plucked from the graveyard of the Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point plant, and a Liberty Ship model.
And James H. Doolittle, who received the Medal of Honor for his flying in World War II, made another mark, in 1925, in Dundalk. He set the world speed record of 232 mph in a Curtiss seaplane, taking off from the now-defunct Logan Field. Batchelor would like to place a bronze model of the aircraft along the trail he designed.
Other designers, like Martin Perlik from the Czech Republic, suggest reviving the Red Rocket trolley that ran through Dundalk.
And somewhere in the stack of ideas was a proposal for a fitting salute to the venerable Army Jeep, tested and approved at the old Fort Holabird.
The design team presented its road map to possible futures in Dundalk assuming an evolving economy of clean, sustainable industries, biomedical research, tourism and information technology. Such a new Dundalk would embrace highly mobile, skilled entrepreneurs demanding healthy places to live, work, shop and play.
"Dundalk, now entering its window of change, appears to be ideally positioned to deliver the land and structural resources necessary to meet the demands of tomorrow's society," Bruno B. Freschi, a designer from Washington, said in a report issued yesterday.
After the design team leaves, the tougher job will begin. The dreams have to be underwritten with a budget that will reach into the millions; the project will require strong advocacy in Towson and Annapolis; and, finally, community spirit cannot wane.
"Now we get to work on a consensus, plucking out parts or all of the dreams in these great drawings," said Ed Parker, who heads Dundalk Renaissance Corp., formed to lead the renewal effort.