The long-awaited plans to revamp Baltimore’s fading Harborplace were revealed Monday, with developer P. David Bramble joined by state and local leaders in support of what Bramble says will be at least a $500 million project.
Some of the alterations are obvious. Gone are the signature pavilions along Light and Pratt streets. Replacing them are two conjoined residential towers — one 32 floors and the other 25 floors — and a dramatic terraced building that will house restaurants, commercial space and more.
Here are five more big changes we noticed in the plans.
A bigger footprint
The renderings show the new plans would push the development all the way to the corner of Light and Pratt streets, eliminating the spur that curls around Harborplace to connect the two streets now.
In fact, a proposed amendment to the city charter would ask voters to expand the ground lease for the project to 4.5 acres from the current 3.2 acres.
Potentially friendlier streets for pedestrians and a new light rail line
The renderings are in line with Bramble’s pledge to shrink Pratt Street, the busy multilane, one-way road adjacent to the project.
In one video clip from the proposal, the street is home to a new light rail train with two tracks in the center of the street, flanked by two leafy green medians with trees and wildflowers. A two-lane roadway runs east, and another leafy median separates vehicle traffic and a bike lane, which is separated from the pedestrian sidewalk by yet another leafy median.
“Accessibility for walkers, bikers, riders, and the mobility impaired goes hand-in-hand with the vitality of our downtown,” the project’s website reads.
The light rail stations currently closest to the Inner Harbor are Howard Street stops at the Convention Center and Camden Yards. MCB Real Estates’ vision would require new light rail construction down Pratt Street.
That may happen through the Red Line, the city’s largest public transit project in decades. The Maryland Transit Administration recently released three potential maps for the 15-mile route from Woodlawn to East Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. There are two versions of each map: one with light rail and another for bus rapid transit, or BRT. Only one potential route includes a pathway down Pratt Street. MTA officials have said they plan to finalize the route by next spring.
A unique Pratt Street building
The current pavilion on Pratt Street would be replaced with a building called “The Sail.”
Imagine a rectangular building with a diagonal cut across it to slice off the top at an angle. Designs show the exposed slice with outdoor terraces and green space.
The Sail building, as depicted, appears to be quite large, with the potential to become the new development’s signature architectural feature.
Developer P. David Bramble explained in Monday’s media conference that the building would have a see-through ground floor, allowing people on Pratt Street to glimpse the water — more welcoming than the trash bins and delivery area that’s currently between the existing pavilion and the street. Vaki Mawema, a managing director and principal at Gensler, referred to it during the event as Baltimore’s next great “postcard moment,” with a potential to be as disruptive for the city as the Guggenheim Museum is in New York.
Inside the building, the first two floors would operate as a “marketplace,” and then there would be “restaurant, venue and commercial opportunities” on the upper levels, according to the Harborplace website.
It’s not clear from the drawings how exactly the exterior terraced area would be used.
Would that area be open to the public? That may be the case, as the drawings seem to show steps leading up. Or would they be restricted to use by whoever is occupying the interior floors adjacent to the terraces?
‘Hundreds of trees’
Did you notice all the trees?
Several rows of mature, shade-making trees line medians of reimagined traffic lanes along Pratt Street. Stretches of them, as they may appear once they are 20 to 30 years old, divide a Pratt Street showing a two-directional light rail, larger sidewalks and fewer traffic lanes. Yes, cars are pictured going the same way as they do now.
In Monday’s news conference, Bramble said there would be “hundreds” planted during the project.
“You got 4.8 acres of new public space for a total of over 18 acres if you talked about our entire waterfront district,” he said.
The attempts to fill the urban landscape with green space are evident. Pathways winding through a park at the corner of Light and Pratt were dotted with commons and reflecting ponds filled with lily pads guide visitors in and out of retail and residential destinations.
Perhaps thinking of the harbor’s ecosystem, man-made cement islands of bay grasses dropped just inside the harbor look like they would catch rain, provide harbor filtration and function as a live-work-play space for Baltimore City’s bird population.
New look for Light Street
The renderings and an accompanying video also show big changes planned for Light Street.
Currently several lanes wide in both directions where it passes Harborplace, Light Street would narrow to what appears to be two lanes of traffic heading each direction. Like Pratt Street, bike and pedestrian paths would be added within the current right-of-way and sheltered from the roadway by a tree-filled median.
The renderings also show a pedestrian bridge connecting the new residential tower to the west side of Light Street and open space next to the taller residential tower.
This article has been updated to correct the current traffic configuration on Light Street.