Anyone curious about old Baltimore industrial sites could be frustrated about an odiferous jumble of little streets on the western edge of Fells Point.
Until about 15 years ago, places like Block and Point street were forbidden to casual observers — they were off limits, a no-go zone because what went on there was dangerous.
The site was once a busy, working, dirty waterfront. Ships called at Jenkins’s and Kerr’s wharves. There was also industry — the Lacy Iron Foundry, Baltimore Pulverizing Co. and the Baltimore Chrome Works, which went on to become Baugh Chemicals and Allied Signal.
It was a neighborhood of gritty coal yards and acres of lumber depots.
All that changed for good as this 27-acre parcel, now called Harbor Point, underwent a dramatic transformation. It began sprouting new office and apartment buildings about 12 years ago and this summer the pile drivers and heavy equipment are at work on the new T. Rowe Price Building, actually two separate seven-story pavilions connected by a glass lobby-atrium.
T. Rowe Price has set a high standard of sustainability. It is going for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum status for the working quarters. And because it’s going up along the harbor shoreline, the structure requires more than 600 steel piles.
T. Rowe estimates that 2,500 persons will occupy the buildings set around a 4.5-acre public waterfront park. It will take two years for this waterfront business campus to be completed.
Harbor Point grows incrementally and it’s always worth a visit if only to realize just how dramatically Baltimore changes. Some might say you don’t know you’re in Baltimore, but really, isn’t Little Italy just a short stroll away?
The summer of 2022 is interesting from a physical development standpoint. The pandemic seems to be in the past. Pennsylvania Station is encased in scaffolding. A new Lexington Market is getting ready to open. The first parking garage is going up at the old Perkins Homes site in Southeast Baltimore.
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Port Covington is taking shape on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River and here, at Harbor Point, another component is just beginning to come out of the ground.
Harbor Point is not a neighborhood in the sense of a Hamilton or Upton, although its roots are as old as Baltimore itself. Situated off Central Avenue, between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point, Harbor Point’s roots go back to the 1770s, when Baltimore was establishing itself as a trading port.
Recent arrivals include the office and hotel building called Wills Wharf. It is a neighbor to the Exelon headquarters. There are plenty of apartments with amazing views of the city and a busy Whole Foods market in the Liberty Harbor East tower.
Harbor Point is strictly the new Baltimore of glass and steel, built high. It’s organized and clean. There is a landscaped central park area where the sodded grass looks as if it were grown in a laboratory. The trees are perfectly groomed.
“We wanted our park to feel good and welcoming,” said Chris Seiler, of Beatty Development Group, Harbor Point’s developer. “Since the pandemic ended, we’ve seen people back outdoors and hanging out. It’s exciting to see signs of something like normal.”
If you’re looking for a fine view of Baltimore’s amazing harbor, this is the place for oohs and ahs. I found myself spotting the old familiar landmarks — the steeple of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church across the water on Riverside Avenue in Federal Hill, the Domino Sugar sign and Tide Point.
Harbor Point arrives at a price. The city of Baltimore granted Beatty Development Group a $107 million subsidy to jumpstart redevelopment of what had been a moribund rustbelt brownfield.