Imagine if Harborplace, the once popular tourist spot on Baltimore’s waterfront, was converted into living quarters for the elderly. What if it hosted bull riding competitions? Or was home to an arcade with a view of a Ferris wheel on a bustling boardwalk?
These are all suggestions that came in after we asked readers how they envision a redeveloped Harborplace as developer P. David Bramble readies to embark on a reincarnation of the property.
More than 100 of you responded to the call with an array of ideas and had some pretty descriptive opinions of your disappointment on what has become “worn down,” “out of touch” and a “ghost town.” Your responses on how to improve said “ghost town” were passionate and oozed creativity.
Bramble, a Baltimore-based developer who bought the restaurant and retail area that first opened in 1980 out of receivership, has said the development is a “crown jewel” that should be open to all.
He, too, wanted the public’s thoughts on the next iteration.
Some of you told The Banner you want more green space — areas to bike, walk and enjoy the waterfront. Others’ wish lists included duckpin bowling and Baltimore-themed craft fairs. Some people saw an opportunity to add cheaper and easier parking, and even more security presence.
But most of all, there was one element that more than half of those who chimed in wanted: To keep it local. Local vendors, local food, local artists and local musicians to showcase the best of Baltimore.
Here is more of what some of you had to say:
Abi Norwood wants a focus on local beers and spirits. “I would like to see a beer garden of local beers & spirits & other beverages,” she wrote. “People can sit and relax by the water while enjoying something local.”
“More bike racks, green space and local businesses/restaurants rather than chains,” a submission from Krysten Garcia read. “Maybe something like pop-ups/food trucks for small businesses that are just starting out. It would also be cool to have some murals by local artists.”
The focus on local anything and everything was the most common theme, coming up in 69 out of 116 responses, or about 59% of respondents.
History and Art
Melissa Cisewski, a resident in Upper Fells Point, said she wants Harborplace to highlight local businesses, Black-owned businesses and Baltimore history — another one of the most mentioned categories. Two specific Baltimore staples she wants to see revitalized are arabbers — street vendors in horse-drawn carriages that sell fresh produce — and painted screens, a primarily East Baltimore tradition going back more than 100 years in which people painted landscapes on rowhouse window screens.
“That is what makes Baltimore unique,” Cisewski said. “It’s like, do you want to make this for tourists or for the locals? But I think that’s a good blend of both, where you’re proud of your city and you’re showcasing it to the tourists.”
Kendra Butler, a West Baltimore native, said she wanted to see more businesses such as comedy clubs or 24-hour diners, but she also envisions it as a starting destination for trolley tours.
“We have some of the most beautiful artwork displayed in the city and it would be so lovely if we could do trolley tours that were dedicated to looking at all the murals,” Butler said.
Embracing the Waterfront
Cisewski also said she wants the waterfront to feel like a destination. “When I go to the harbor, I want to pretend I’m on vacation.”
Cisewski envisions a tiki bar or sandlot bar, similar to Bo Brooks Crabhouse & Tiki Bar in Canton, which is closed for renovations. She said it could be a great place to grab a drink, look at the boats and people watch.
Kayenecha Daugherty also wants a way to take advantage of the waterfront views, such as adding a Ferris wheel or carousel that would draw crowds of families.
“Baltimore is beautiful, so to be able to go on the Ferris wheel and see all the different neighborhoods of Baltimore from that high spot, I think would be really pretty,” she said.
Daugherty, as the executive director of Creative Nomads, an arts nonprofit, hopes the Inner Harbor can have a focus on public art installations, and she also wants to see designated busking spaces to highlight the distinct personality of the city.
She envisions walking along the waterfront using an app that guides her on a tour of different buskers. She said she drew inspiration from a city in Europe where a similar app was created.
She wants the busking spaces to start at Harbor East and run along the Inner Harbor. Daugherty would also like her organization to help make any such app a reality.
For all the foodies, some want Harborplace turned into a food hall that serves as incubator spaces for chefs just out of culinary school or for local and Black-owned restaurants.
Eric Hontz wrote it could be “a conveyor belt of prosperity, investment, and opportunity from harbor to hoods.”
Lauren Clark agreed: “I would like Harborplace to go back to what it was in the ’80s and ’90s: small local shops and vendors, maybe with a grocery market. I’ve been saying for years that it should be a city-run incubator space for local culinary/arts grads to get their concept started before moving out to the real world.”
Baltimore-themed Disney World
How about a Harborborplace with boardwalk-like attractions that resembles downtown Disney World?
“A mix of unique (not chain) restaurants and upscale shops, preferably a mix of higher end and family friendly,” said David Moore. “A Baltimore-specific version of a Downtown Disney kind of setting.”
Williams Fulton said Harborplace should resemble Disney’s EPCOT, one of the parks in Disney World where visitors can travel to countries across the world through rides and attractions at the park. He said it should include “food, art, crafts, gifts, curios and limited apparel of various nations.” An “Ocean City boardwalk stretch” of pavilion length, duplicating the favorite “beachy” retail, specialty foods and arcades. And a “Baltimore/Maryland themed store.”
Another common request was more green space. Many of the suggestions for green space requested improved parking and space for bikers.
Alexandra Becnel said she wanted to see the redevelopment create more space for pedestrians and less for cars.
“I want to see the redevelopment of Harborplace prioritize pedestrians and de-prioritize automobiles,” Bencel said. “The new development should have more green space and more harbor views. The current structures block the water views. Only local restaurants and business. 50/50 split indoor and outdoor dining.”
Other readers, like Lina Ayers, said they want more green space so the area can serve as a space to just enjoy being outside near the waterfront.
“Change the focus from spending money to activities and outdoor space for seating, play areas, fountains, gardens and sports activities,” Ayers’ submission said. “Food/drink that is local & casual.”
Readers also seem to want a place appropriate for families and their children. Joey Heavner said a place that has become a family-favorite for him, his wife, and his toddler was R. House in Remington because of the safe, open space and large windows, which have become a play space for kids. He said he would like to see something similar in the Harborplace redevelopment, but while keeping it an inclusive space.
“I want to make sure that families are among the groups that are considered,” Heavner said. “Families with young children, families with older children. I want it to be a safe place, a fun space and certainly not at the neglect of others who don’t have kids.”
Some envisioned parks for kids to play while parents can relax, and other readers, like Matt Swanson, said he would want to see stores and restaurants that are family-friendly.
“Toy stores, kid-friendly restaurants, and maybe an arcade-type experience,” he wrote. “The science center and aquarium already pull families from all around the Baltimore area, so shops that complement a parents day out with their kids may do better than trying to compete with the Federal Hill bar-restaurants.”