I appreciate The Banner taking a deep dive at Harborplace, although I wish it would have happened earlier and before the votes in City Council.

I also wish the articles would be more investigative and less conversational. In your article about reaction to plans for the original Harborplace, you accurately describe what happened with the Rouse Pavilions back then and the debate leading up to it. Permeating through the article though, is a false equivalency between the pavilions and the Bramble project.

While it is correct that the pavilions set a precedent for commercial development in a public park space, they were fully synergistic with public use in the sense that they were fully accessible to the public and housed functions that supported visiting the harbor to the point that they actually became the attraction for a while. They were also only 50 feet high and conformed to the Wallace Roberts Todd urban design master plan that created a tall “outer frame” and lower objects inside the frame.

This is not equivalent to 900 apartments and tens of thousands of square feet for offices and other commercial functions proposed by Bramble. Those are not open to the public, and being hundreds of feet tall, they violate the spatial concept of the original master plan.

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The proposed development is also allowed to cover a footprint that is 40% larger than the maximal 3.2 acres allowed for the pavilions.

There is no plausible argument to be made that apartments and offices represent an attraction that would draw people to Harborplace. While the uses on the first floors of the towers are probably intended to be similar to what was originally in the pavilions, they are much less water-oriented and less likely to bring the kind of people-watching for which the pavilions, with their outside seating terraces, were designed. In short, the proposed project will fail to make a similar splash as the original Harborplace, which has been copied around the world.

Klaus Philipsen, Baltimore

Klaus Philipsen is president of ArchPlan Inc. and author of Baltimore, Reinventing an Industrial Legacy City.

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