Wednesday, September 03 2008 @ 04:03 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
by ROBBIE WHELAN - Daily Record
With the opening of a stretch of red cobblestones in front of the new Ritz-Carlton Residences, city residents now have access to more than six miles of almost uninterrupted waterfront public space around Baltimore’s harbor.
The Baltimore Waterfront Promenade, which begins in the shadow of the First Mariner Bancorp Tower in Canton and ends just before the Baltimore Museum of Industry in South Baltimore, has been in the works since the mid-1980s, when a series of urban renewal ordinances passed by City Council sought to extend the Inner Harbor’s pedestrian access to other parts of the harbor.
Each new piece of legislation, starting with the Inner Harbor Urban Renewal Plan and most recently including the Key Highway Urban Renewal Plan, has stipulated that all private development by the harbor must agree to an easement placed on 20 to 30 feet of public-access promenade space along the water.
Late last month, the city approved an easement for the section of promenade in front of the newly opened Ritz, which effectively completes the connection between the Inner Harbor and HarborView, a luxury condominium and townhome development.
“The idea, just generally, going way back is that after the Inner Harbor happened, and was successful, the thinking was to extend the promenade to the east and south into the neighborhoods, because we thought public access to the waterfront was a paramount idea and something we’d like to achieve,” said Robert M. Quilter, an architect with the city’s planning department and coordinator of the promenade project.
Quilter said that the key to ensuring waterfront access to the public is to legislate it.
Easement requirements are usually built into urban renewal plans, but if a development is not located within an urban renewal area, then the city ties the easement to an agreement called a Planned Unit Development.
Under a PUD agreement, which must be approved by the city, various zoning uses such as residential, commercial and retail can be grouped together on one property. Hale Properties’ Canton Crossing and Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse’s Tide Point projects are examples of developments built outside of urban renewal areas for which an easement was a contingency for PUD approval.
“The thing about the easements is, we realized that what had happened up to [the 1980s] was that everything that happened was on city-owned land,” Quilter said. “The promenades that were done at Harbor East were also on city land, but when you get to Fells Point and Canton and Key Highway, that was on private land so it became clear that [we] needed this easement mechanism to guarantee public access.”
On a recent bicycle ride around the harbor from Canton to Locust Point, The Daily Record found that, save for four spots, the promenade is a continuous loop along the water.
They were a break in the brick-paved path behind the Captain James restaurant in Canton, the areas around the construction sites at Harbor Point and Harbor East’s Legg Mason/Four Seasons project, and a small fenced-off portion of Henderson’s Wharf in Fells Point.
In each of these cases, a quick detour, with minimal time spent contending with street traffic, returned the rider to the waterfront in just a few minutes.