New Members Added to the ‘Middle Branch Master Plan’ Design Team to Strengthen Equity and Inclusion

| December 9, 2020 | 0 Comments

Last week, Baltimore City announced new additions to the Middle Branch Master Plan design team which is now comprised of many firms and consultants. New members of the project were chosen to “strengthen the focus on equity, inclusion, and resiliency.”

The new members include:

  • Kofi Boone, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning with North Carolina State University’s College of Design;
  • DesignJones, LLC, co-led by Diane Jones Allen, former Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Morgan State University;
  • Proof Projects, an interdisciplinary design research firm focused on large-scale landscape systems;
  • The Urban Studio, a DC-based interdisciplinary art and design collaborative.

James Corner Field Operations (JCFO), a firm that finished second in the Middle Branch Waterfront design competition, is also joining the consultant team. JCFO will become more involved in the second phase of the project.

Dutch architecture firm West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture was previously picked to lead the project after wining the design competition, but withdrew from the project earlier this year after photos surfaced of individuals wearing blackface at a holiday party hosted by the firm in 2012.

Already working on Phase One of the master plan, which will create a new vision for 11-plus miles of shoreline along the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River, is Baltimore firm Mahan Rykiel Associates with technical consultants BioHabitats, HR&A Advisors, Living Design Lab, Moffatt & Nichol, and Toole Design, and a communications and engagement team comprised of Assedo Consulting, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, KG&A, MD Strategic, and Public Mechanics.

Work is already in process on the master plan and an “intensive round” of public outreach is planned for early next year. A new website called Reimagine Middle Branch (reimaginemb.com) has been launched to bring project information and updates together under one umbrella.

Already underway on public spaces along the Middle Branch is the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center at Reedbird Park in Cherry Hill. A trash wheel to collect trash entering the Middle Branch through the Gwynns Falls will be installed this month. Initial engineering has begun to design a pedestrian bridge from from Port Covington to Westport near the Spring Gardens Swing Bridge.

One idea the master plan will look at is transforming the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Bridge (Hanover Street Bridge) into a linear park with a new bridge constructed for vehicular traffic.

The master plan 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.

“I am truly excited to announce that the Reimagine Middle Branch initiative is moving forward full steam ahead,” said Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young in a press release. “We recognize there are parallel efforts taking place in the Middle Branch that would benefit greatly from coordinated communication. The Master Plan is best understood as a way to organize the small and large moves that together will realize the community’s vision over many years. Projects like this with dedicated community support are how we will continue to build Baltimore.”

“This effort is bigger than any one project or property, or the Master Plan itself,” said Michael Middleton, chairman of the SB7 Coalition, which represents the South Baltimore communities of Brooklyn, Cherry Hill, Curtis Bay, Lakeland, Mount Winans, Saint Paul, and Westport in a press release. “The new website will be an excellent community resource as we work toward our goal of delivering a world-class waterfront with new recreational amenities, parks, trails, and sustainable community development.”

“Several collaborations are yielding progress on projects that will anchor the Master Plan,” said Brad Rogers, executive director of the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership. “The Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center broke ground in September. The Gwynns Falls Trash Wheel will be installed in December. We’re working on grants and financing to build trails and restore wetlands. These efforts are happening in tandem with the Master Plan, and the new website will capture all of this activity, making it easier for people to get involved.”

“The Parks & People Foundation is pleased to join with the Mayor’s Office, Department of Planning, Department of Recreation and Parks, the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, community leaders, and so many concerned and committed persons to reimagine the Middle Branch. P&P led the design competition that helped to launch this initiative and I am grateful to see this environmental justice and equity work continue. It is much needed and the Middle Branch communities deserve it,” said Franklin Lance, president and CEO of the Parks & People Foundation.

James Corner Field Operation concepts video by Parks and People Foundation 

Photos of James Corner Field Operation display boards (click to enlarge)

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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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