Baltimore recently let the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre and the McKeldin Fountain be demolished with little to show from it’s replacement. It looks like Harborplace is next. The developers’ replacement for the pavilions is street level retail, 900 apartments, an office-hotel building and a signature building all of which turn their back on downtown much worse than the pavilions do (”Baltimore architect offers Harborplace option: more park space, less-obtrusive towers,” Nov. 16).
As a fan of James Rouse’s plans and projects, I am appalled at this sudden dramatic plan. Harborplace was created to fit into this waterfront site as a low-rise complement to the towers on Pratt and Light streets and not to block them. The pavilions frame a wonderful cityscape view from the harbor and Federal Hill Park, all connected by a public promenade. It’s simply urban planning at it’s finest.
The pavilions provide a gathering place — perhaps not the best — for the city to escape the summer heat, have a meal with a spectacular view and buy a souvenir of Charm City. While the pavilions have had their ups and downs, they have served their purpose well and could continue to do so. Before the New York owner defaulted on their loan, they still had most of Harborplace leased and had lined up several incoming tenants.
The pavilions are important for convention attendees, visitors to the National Aquarium and Maryland Science Center and downtown office workers. Adding local flavor does not require demolition. It can be accomplished by adding a local marketplace and rotating local vendors and community group stands in the rear of the Light Street pavilion.
The right tenant mix, the narrowing of Light Street, adding a small amount of parking next the Visitor Center and employing a courteous and professional security team could make Harborplace the jewel of Baltimore once again. Bonus thought: put a Macy’s in what was the The Gallery mall space and voilà, no need for a $500 million to $900 million redevelopment.
— Brian Ryder, Linthicum
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