Redevelopment project garners national award


East Baltimore effort is praised for its design and scope

January 13, 2003|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

A sweeping vision for the renewal of East Baltimore is years away from completion, but it has already impressed one influential group.

The American Institute of Architects selected the East Baltimore Comprehensive Physical Redevelopment Plan to receive a 2003 Honor Award for Urban Design.

The prestigious national award, to be presented at the AIA's annual convention in San Diego in May, honors a two-year effort by the city of Baltimore and Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh to create a master plan to guide $800 million worth of redevelopment in a depressed area north of the Johns Hopkins medical campus.

The plan's most-discussed feature has been a biotechnology center expected to create space for 30 to 50 companies providing up to 8,000 jobs. It also calls for new and restored housing, shops, offices, green space and an extension of Baltimore's subway system. The city is in the initial stages of acquiring properties for the project, which will be constructed over the next 10 to 15 years.

Ray Gindroz, principal of Urban Design Associates, said he is pleased the project is receiving recognition because he believes it represents a new approach to urban revitalization.

"It's a new idea to combine investment in research facilities with neighborhood revitalization," he said. "It's another important breakthrough to be able to go into neighborhoods which have deep problems and propose solutions which are simultaneously dramatic enough to attract new investment and yet consistent with the historic traditions and character of the place."

Gindroz said the planning effort benefited greatly from the participation of East Baltimore residents and other community representatives who know what the area needs and weren't afraid to speak out. "I hope the people in East Baltimore would consider it their award as well," he said.

Laurie Schwartz, interim chief executive officer of the East Baltimore Development Inc., the quasi-public group formed to oversee the development, said the award is an affirmation of the planning process used and the planners' recommendations to create mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods.

The designers proposed "a variety of new housing products that we think will be very attractive to Baltimoreans," she said. "The city hasn't yet offered enough new housing products to capitalize on the market that exists."

The renewal area is bounded roughly by Madison Street on the south, Milton Avenue on the east, Oliver Street on the north and Eden Street on the west.

The plan calls for construction of up to 2 million square feet of research facilities as an extension of the Johns Hopkins medical campus and 1,200 new and rehabilitated residences.

The first phase of the planning process included a feasibility study of the biotech center, its impact on the area and an analysis of existing neighborhood conditions. In the second phase, the team focused on the development of design alternatives and strategies for the East Baltimore neighborhoods and how the biotech center could be used as a catalyst for revitalizing the area.

The AIA's jurors praised the plan as an "extremely complex project" that offers a "sensitive solution for 40 suffering neighborhoods." They said it has a "good scale" and "feels lively."

Gindroz said the award should help give the project credibility with developers and business owners and encourage investment in East Baltimore.

This sort of national recognition is "reassuring to everybody," he said. "It means the plan is not being carried out as some fly-by-night operation. It should give comfort to people in the community ... that their input has been recognized."

The East Baltimore plan is one of five local projects by Urban Design Associates, recognized nationally as an expert in regional and urban design. Others include Broadway Homes in East Baltimore, Hanover Park in Cherry Hill and Heritage Crossing and parts of Sandtown Winchester in West Baltimore.

This is the fifth AIA honor award for Urban Design Associates and its first for a Baltimore project. Others were for projects in Norfolk and Richmond, Va.; Louisville, Ky., and Charlotte. N.C.

Other consultants who worked on the East Baltimore project were: Glatting Jackson of Orlando, Fla., transportation planning; Brophy & Reilly of Columbia, Md., a development strategist; and Zimmerman/Volk Associates Inc. of Clinton, N.J., responsible for residential market analysis.

This award marks the fourth time in the past decade that an urban design project in Baltimore has won a national AIA award. Others include plans for the reconstruction of Flag House Courts in 2001; Pleasant View Gardens in 1997; and Inner Harbor East in 1995. Oriole Park at Camden Yards won an AIA honor award in 1994.

In all, 32 projects were selected from nearly 600 submissions to receive the 2003 awards in the fields of architecture, interiors and urban design. Other winners included the American Folk Art Museum in New York City by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, a federal courthouse in Central Islip, N.Y., by Richard Meier, and a master plan for land along the Schuykill River in Pennsylvania by Sasaki Associates.

The only other project in Maryland to receive a national AIA award this year is the Martin Shocket Residence, the transformation of a 1920s catalog house in Chevy Chase, by McInturff Architects of Bethesda.

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