MCB Real Estate’s mixed-use development plan that includes high-rise apartment buildings for Harborplace in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is not the right development for this key location. Yet, the Baltimore Planning Commission, along with much of the city’s leadership, are saying we want this major project done quickly. The reality is we want this project done right. Baltimore has a vibrant arts, food and music scene, and showcasing these elements is essential.

Many small New England towns have a town square that is the center of life for the community. The Inner Harbor, particularly the area now occupied by Harborplace, should be Baltimore’s town square, a people’s park with no high-rise buildings. The two current pavilions can be replaced with one-story food markets similar to Remington’s R House and Mount Vernon Marketplace. These markets could be filled with local restaurateurs. The walls could be covered with work from local artists, exhibits hanging for a few weeks, then replaced with work from other artists, all with commission-free sales. An observation deck with tables and chairs could be on the roof of each market. Baltimoreans should be welcome with picnic food on these decks.

An amphitheater could feature local talent playing a wide variety of music. This venue could also host book and poetry readings. The park could also include a giant Ferris Wheel like London’s Eye and the National Harbor’s Capital Wheel. A sandy beach on the south side of the harbor near Rash Field might work this time, with new art, food and music attractions nearby. People could launch kayaks and canoes from this area and swim when the water quality allows.

The park could host Baltimore’s many ethnic festivals, perhaps WTMD’s First Thursday concerts, too. A farmers market would be useful during the growing season. And once a week, local artists could display and sell their work outdoors — think Montmartre in Paris.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Cindy Conklin is an experienced and respected local realtor. She has pointed out that there, is or shortly will be, an oversupply of market-rate rentals in a large area that includes the Inner Harbor. MCB’s project that includes a 25- and 32-story apartment building can’t be justified based on need. The sign of creative, enlightened leadership is that major projects are a win-win for everyone affected, not just a developer and families living in 900 apartments at water’s edge.

The pandemic has changed where we work. Less office space is needed because many people continue to work from home. Could our mayor work with MCB to do office-to-apartment or condo conversions? Could MCB erect a world-class apartment building at 300 E. Pratt St., on property the company already owns? Could our mayor work with MCB to build apartments or condos on Howard Street? Along Central Avenue?

In Baltimore’s past, rundown areas have been gentrified, but the poor have not benefited because they have been priced out. Baltimore should own two Inner Harbor food markets so that rent for the food stalls is as low as possible. These low rents should then be reflected in the food prices. Governor Wes Moore’s recent campaign slogan was: “Leave no one behind.” This notion should permeate every aspect of our new park: Thurgood Marshall Park, Brooks Robinson Park or Mo Gaba Park. Or honor someone else who is deserving

Baltimore residents pay high property taxes and water bills and have for many years. An Inner Harbor people’s park filled with local art, food and music would be an appropriate thank you to these residents, while two high-rise apartment buildings would be a slap in the face.

Gary Kelly is a longtime resident of Baltimore’s Wyman Park neighborhood and a Johns Hopkins University graduate who says he finds great value in the city’s cultural and artistic institutions.

More From The Banner