First Renderings Revealed for the ‘Reimagine Middle Branch’ Plan

| October 4, 2021 | 0 Comments

Last week at the first public meeting for the Reimagine Middle Branch plan, preliminary design renderings were released by the design team at James Corner Field Operations. The Reimagine Middle Branch plan is a partnership between the City of Baltimore, South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, Parks & People Foundation, and James Corner Field Operations to “reconnect South Baltimore to the 11-plus miles of shoreline along the Patapsco River.”

From the presentation:

The team has proposed a three-part framework that: 1) protects and connects the shoreline; 2) transforms barriers into connections; and 3) strengthens communities with new parks and programs.

1) Protect and connect the shoreline: A reconstructed and reshaped shoreline will improve water quality, absorb floodwater and protect against storm surge, while providing natural habitats for birds and aquatic species, and offering scenic beauty and recreation for Baltimore city residents. It will be a place for all that includes a continuous trail system for biking, walking and jogging; boardwalks and piers for fishing, crabbing and taking in the views; and, outdoor classrooms and soft footpaths – all offering unique waterside experiences.

2) Transform barriers into connections: Rebuilding roadways as “green boulevards” will link neighborhoods to one another and to jobs, transit and major destinations in the city and region. The green boulevards, which include improvements to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge, will be designed and built as “complete streets” that balance the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, cars, trucks and transit, while incorporating shade trees and “green” stormwater management practices.

3) Strengthen communities with parks and programs: Reimagine Middle Branch will activate the waterfront with new amenities and bolster neighborhoods with equitable community development projects and programs. The park destinations will create special places both on the waterfront and within neighborhoods. The equitable development programs will create jobs and improve quality of life for South Baltimore residents.

Over the next four months, the Reimagine Middle Branch Plan will incorporate feedback from the public and stakeholders into draft planning documents, which are scheduled to be released in final form in spring 2022.

“Our goal over the next 12 months is to gather input from the communities in South Baltimore and other local stakeholders to put together a community-driven plan,” Megan Born, senior associate landscape architect and urban designer at James Corner Field Operations, told last week. “The second goal is improvements to parks, connections, and trails. And, the third goals is to launch catalyst projects and activities.”

Born said the areas taking priority are publicly-owned areas around the Middle Branch such as Middle Branch Park and the park space on Ridgely’s Cove behind the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore Garage.

Much of the the waterfront is owned by private entities such as the Port Covington Development Team, which is undertaking a large redevelopment of the Port Covington peninsula; Stonewall Capital, which owns 43 acres of waterfront land in Westport and is planning a mixed-used redevelopment; and casino owners CBAC and its partners on the Warner Street District entertainment development.

Born said there are stakeholder committees and meetings for the different property owners. She called the plan a “collaborative effort.”

Born said the plan “could be incredibly transformational for the communities as well as for all of Baltimore in a massive scale.”

She added, “It’s an incredibly special and unique site. I think it’s kind of immeasurable the amount of change that could take place. It’s exciting as an architect, but more so exciting for the people who live here.”

Born said Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was “an urban design model of its time” and called it the “commercial heart of the city.” She said the Middle Branch will be different as it will be green and recreational with “ecological benefits, inclusive programs, and activities.”

Renderings and descriptions from James Corner Field Operations 

Aerial View of the Middle Branch design concepts showing a resilient shoreline, green boulevards, and new neighborhood activity hubs. 

A new shoreline design envisions improved water quality and resiliency measures that protect communities from damaging storms, while adding trail connections, boardwalks, and scenic beauty to the Middle Branch. 

New piers and upgrades to existing piers are envisioned to increase access to the water around the Middle Branch.

The Plan envisions a new east-west bridge connecting Westport and Mount Winans to Port Covington and the South Baltimore peninsula. The design includes bike and pedestrian lanes, and integrates wetlands and resiliency berms to protect nearby neighborhoods from flooding, while continuing to enable boats to access Ridgely’s Cove. 

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