BDC backs proposal to build road linking Pratt Street, Pier 5

One-way brick street would run alongside Columbus Center

August 29, 2002|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

A key Baltimore agency is backing a push by developers John Paterakis Sr. and David Cordish to build an access road from Pratt Street to Pier 5 in an area that is now limited to pedestrians.

Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development arm, supports the creation of the proposed one-way southbound brick road, which would run to Eastern Avenue along the western side of the Columbus Center.

Skeptics worry about the loss of open space at the Inner Harbor and the possibility that drivers might use the road as a shortcut to Fells Point. They also say an influx of traffic is a bad idea because Port Discovery children's museum is considering a move to the Columbus Center.

BDC and others say the road would help the flow of traffic onto Pier 5 and 6 without cutting into a brick waterside promenade. Supporters say few pedestrians use the area between the promenade and Columbus Center.

Paterakis, who controls the Pier 5 Hotel, wants the road because it would make the hotel more easily accessible to guests.

City planning and transporta- tion officials would have to ap- prove the road, but BDC backs the concept.

"The fact is, there needs to be circulation onto the piers," said Andrew Frank, BDC executive vice president, referring to traffic flow. "It doesn't function well."

Frank said the road would be paid for privately, not with city funds. The land is owned by the city but controlled by the University of Maryland, which operates the Columbus Center under a long-term lease.

Frank said the university favors the road. City Councilwoman Lois A. Garey, whose district includes the piers, said she did not learn of the proposal until this week. "It is major when you're building a road," Garey said.

Among her concerns is that drivers might ignore a sign saying the private road is for hotel guests and use it as a shortcut, avoiding the light at Pratt and President streets. "You can just zoom around," she said.

Clinton Bamberger, who lives in the Scarlett Place condominiums on President Street, is against the road proposal. He said he walks near the site of the proposed road. "It's a pedestrian area, and I don't like the increased traffic," Bamberger said.

The road would be "very close to the children's museum" if Port Discovery relocates there, he said.

Frank said such concerns are understandable.

"Any time you introduce vehicular traffic into a pedestrian environment, particularly the Inner Harbor, it's going to raise people's concerns," Frank said. "I think it's a natural and somewhat knee-jerk reaction to say, `Hey, it's the Inner Harbor. Do we want cars?'"

He said the road could be built "very nicely."

Besides, he said, "it's not terribly well utilized now, and it's not particularly pleasant place to be. It's a large expansive area of brick" and other pavement.

Cordish called the space a "concrete desert." Of the road, he said, "I don't see any harm in it."

He said it would mainly help the Pier 5 Hotel and adjacent restaurants. Visitors now must use Eastern Avenue or cut through a parking lot on the Columbus Center's eastern side.

Although Cordish plans to build a garage on the lot, he said drivers still would be allowed to cut through to reach the hotel. But it would be "less pleasant" than taking the proposed road, he said.

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