Middle Branch Waterfront Master Plan Aims to Turn Hanover Street Bridge into a Park

| June 9, 2020 | 0 Comments

Last month the Baltimore City Board of Estimates awarded a $325,200 contract to Dutch architecture firm West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture to develop the Middle Branch Waterfront Master Plan. West 8 was selected after wining the Middle Branch Waterfront design competition. The Master Plan will design “a network of world-class parks, trails, and public recreation opportunities along the Patapsco River’s 11-mile shoreline in South Baltimore.”

The work is funded by casino local impact grants overseen jointly by Baltimore City and the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership (SBGP), as well as capital and operating funds secured from the State of  Maryland by the Parks & People Foundation. Baltimore City’s Department of Planning, working in consultation with the Departments of Recreation and Parks and other City and State agencies, will oversee the contract.

One of the features envisioned in the plan is turning the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Bridge (Hanover Street Bridge) into a linear park with a new bridge constructed for vehicular traffic. The Baltimore City Department of Transportation is currently looking for funding for a $50-million renovation of the bridge that would add a new concrete driving deck with protected sidewalks and bike lanes.

“With a bold future for the Middle Branch in mind, it’s worth pondering whether paying lots of public money to keep vehicles moving on the bridge for only a couple years is really the best option,” SBGP Executive Director Brad Rogers told SouthBMore.com. “We as a city need to start looking at our assets and see what the opportunities are for them. The overall project isn’t contingent on the future of the bridge. If it remains a vehicular bridge, we will build an amazing park network around it.”

Initial design competition renderings from West 8 show a new vehicular bridge that skips Cherry Hill and runs from W. Peninsula Dr., adjacent to Under Armour’s property and proposed campus, to a new island and then to Brooklyn.

Rogers told SouthBMore.com people should not be too focused on the details of that particular drawing. “Deciding where to align a new bridge is a very complicated question. Drawings are designed to make people see a possibility.

He noted a future vehicular bridge could keep the same path as the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, but working around the footprint.

“We are just pointing out we are a city with lots of options and we are not trapped or stuck with just one,” said Rogers.

When talking about the possibility of turning the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Bridge into a park, Rogers pointed out two local examples of the Severn River Bridge on Rt. 450 in Annapolis and the Rt. 50 bridge over the Choptank River in Cambridge.

“Those two communities have a new way to enjoy and experience and claim ownership over their waterfront,” said Rogers.

Rogers said the planning process is just getting started and meetings with community groups and city agencies haven’t started yet.

The $325,200 contract with West 8 covers the first of six planned phases in the Master Plan. These focus on site surveys and strategies to engage and communicate with area stakeholders about the plan. It will take 15 months to complete. It is estimated that the entire project could absorb $500 million in financing over 20 years, with short-term projects ready to break ground in 2022.

Two Middle Branch projects in the works and which will come to fruition this year are the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center at Reedbird Park in Cherry Hill and a trash wheel to collect trash that enters the Middle Branch through the Gwynns Falls.

Current overhead shot courtesy of Google Maps

West 8 concepts video by Parks and People Foundation 

Photos of West 8’s display boards at the Middle Branch Waterfront Design Competition (click to enlarge)

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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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