City Funding Board Green Lights First Phase of Rash Field Redevelopment

| September 18, 2019 | 0 Comments

Today the Baltimore City Board of Estimates approved a funding agreement with Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore (WPOB) on the Phase One redevelopment of Rash Field at the Inner Harbor.

Under the terms of the agreement, WPOB will lead construction on the City’s behalf. The City will contribute more than $9.5 million towards design and construction costs. WPOB has raised an additional $4 million from the State of Maryland and nearly $2 million from private sources. The total development cost of Phase One is $16.8 million.

Construction will begin in January 2020.

There is currently a $1.3-million funding gap between the project cost and the amount raised, but WPOB President and CEO Laurie Schwartz told SouthBMore.com the organization has some funding requests out and expects to fill the gap.

Phase One will renovate the western side of the seven-acre park with a redeveloped pavilion with a café, outdoor patio, overlook with a partially green roof, bathrooms, a shade structure, and amphitheater seating; a skate park called Jake’s Skate Park; a children’s nature park; a children’s playground; and new plants and landscaping. These new features will replace a small parking lot (not the one designated for the Maryland Science Center), a green space, a brick patio with a sandbox, and the western edge of the concrete bleachers.

The café will be “an amenity to the park first and foremost,” Schwartz told SouthBMore.com in April. The interior will have room for about 20 to 30 tables. Schwartz said it will not be a full-service restaurant or kitchen, but likely serve quicker items like paninis. It will have a liquor license and WPOB will then work with the community on a memorandum of understanding and The Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City (BLLC) to approve the new liquor license. 

On the west side of the pavilion, a shade structure will cover amphitheater-style seating that will face the children’s play areas. Schwartz said this is so parents can watch their kids in the shade.

Mahan Rykiel serves as the park’s designer after being selected from a group of 13 submissions in 2015. The 42-person, Baltimore-based organization specializes in landscape architecture, urban design, and planning.

Whiting-Turner has been selected as construction manager and general contractor. WPOB and Whiting-Turner are collaborating to “encourage minority, women-owned businesses and nonprofit social enterprises to participate in the construction of the park.”

With construction set to begin in January, the park’s first phase is expected to be completed by Spring 2021. Once work is underway, WPOB will turn its attention to raising the necessary funding for Phase Two.

Schwartz said in the perfect world Phase Two in the eastern section of the park will begin as Phase One is completed so that they can keep Whiting-Turner on site.

The eastern section of the park was built as a stadium for Southern High School (now Digital Harbor High School) athletics in 1975, but Southern began using different fields several years later. The concrete track and cement bleachers remain, and the former grass field has been the home to Baltimore Beach Volleyball for the last 19 years. It also serves as a memorial for the Pride of Baltimore and as an open green space that was once the home of a trapeze school.

In Phase Two, this section will become a reorganized seven-court volleyball area adjacent to the pavilion and café, a large lawn that will be used for youth sports and events, a game lawn, a shade lawn, a repositioned Pride of Baltimore memorial, and a myriad of sloped paths that will replace the bleachers and transition the change in grade from Key Hwy. to the ground level of the park. Plans for Phase Two will continue to develop.

In response to today’s announcement, Schwartz said in a  press release, “Currently an unattractive and underutilized space on the Inner Harbor’s South Shore, Rash Field will be transformed into an active recreation and play space by spring 2021.”

Schwartz told SouthBMore.com while visitors and tourists are welcome to visit Rash Field, WPOB’s real commitment is for the park to serve Baltimore residents.

“Waterfront Partnership has been a strong partner in working with the city to bring Rash Field Park to life for Baltimore,” said Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young in a press release today. “With new playgrounds, a skatepark and pavilion, the Park will be a safe and central destination for families from all across the city as well as for tourists. Providing positive activities for children and youth has proven to be an effective crime fighting tool and I’m so glad we’re providing this recreation and park space at the Inner Harbor.”

Ideas for the redevelopment of Rash Field first began to arise in the early 2000s and this plan began to move forward in early 2016. WPOB is looking forward to finally making the redevelopment a reality.

“We are certainly excited. We are seeing funders and the community enthusiastic as we get closer,” said Schwartz.

Renderings courtesy of Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, Gensler and Mahan Rykiel

Screenshot courtesy of Google Maps

 

Renderings from RashField.org

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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