Events aimed at revealing land's potential


Baltimore's former Allied Signal chrome plant property has been off limits to the general public for more than a century, but that's about to change.

With work complete on a $100 million cleanup of the 27-acre parcel between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point, developers are beginning to look for ways to bring people onto the land temporarily so they can see its potential for redevelopment as a mixed-use community called Harbor Point.

One idea is to hold events on the property to showcase its central location and waterfront views.

"We want to develop a temporary use program to take advantage of this being the world's most fantastic event site," said developer Bill Struever, head of Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, part of the development team.

"We want to work with the community and come up with a plan for events that will create excitement and activity" on the prime waterfront parcel.

The strategy is reminiscent of the way Baltimore held City Fairs along the Inner Harbor shoreline in the 1970s to showcase that area's potential for redevelopment. Once people visited the harbor shoreline, planners reasoned, they would see its appeal and be more inclined to support city initiatives to transform it from industrial use to commercial and recreation use.

Struever already has had a few private events on the property, such as a party during the OpSail festivities in 2000, said Janet Marie Smith, the company's vice president for planning and development.

"We've always thought that Harbor Point might be developed like the Inner Harbor was, which means that people get exposed to its potential and development follows," she said.

Struever Bros. is working with H&S; Property Development Corp. to transform the former chrome plant property. The land is owned by Honeywell International, which acquired Allied Signal in 1999. Allied Signal initiated the clean-up, which involved demolishing the chrome plant and building a cap over contaminated land so it can be redeveloped.

The parcel is zoned for construction of up to 1.8 million square feet of commercial space, up to 600,000 square feet of parking space and at least 1.8 acres of parkland.

A preliminary master plan was developed in the early 1990s with the help of a community task force. Struever said he would like to get the community planning process going again so the development team can arrive at a long-term master plan and starting making decisions about short-term uses. He said most of the land could be used for events "until we build it out," and that the team already is exploring plans for two office buildings on portions of the land outside the capped area.

Organizers of the annual Fells Point Fun Festival have been hoping that this year's event would be one of the first to be held on a portion of the cleaned-up Harbor Point property. They say they need to expand their boundaries for this year's festival because some of the land they have used in the past is now under construction and no longer available for the festival, such as the former Terminal Warehouse pier.

The annual festival draws 700,000 people over a weekend. It usually takes place along Thames Street between Wolfe and Caroline streets and along Broadway from the waterfront to Eastern Avenue. The year's event, the 36th, will be held Oct. 5 and 6. It is the main fund-raiser for the work of the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point.

Struever said he also was hoping that events might be held at Harbor Point starting this fall, but it now looks as if they won't begin until next spring. He said the development team still needs to address a variety of logistical issues before it can start staging events, such as planning adequate access to and from the site. He added that the development team worked with organizers of the Fells Point festival last year to provide parking on part of the Harbor Point property and will do what it can to assist them again this year.

New commissions

Murphy and Dittenhafer of Baltimore is the architect planning the conversion of the former St. Patrick's School building at 313 Broadway to a new home for the Associated Catholic Charities Hispanic Apostolate, a social services center that assists Spanish-speaking residents of East Baltimore. The organization originally wanted to tear the school down to make way for new construction, but Murphy and Dittenhafer came up with a plan to renovate the oldest part of the building and replace two 20th-century additions with a new addition that will provide the space needed by the Hispanic center. The building is owned by the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Alexander Design Studio of Ellicott City is the architect for the Crossroads School, a public school planned for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in Baltimore's East Harbor. The school will be operated by the Living Classrooms Foundation through a contract with the city school system and is being designed to rise on the western edge of the Living Classrooms property, the former City Dock at 802 S. Caroline St. The school is expected to begin classes this fall with 50 sixth-graders and will eventually expand to enroll 150 students.

Richard Polan Associates of Baltimore is the project architect for the expansion and modernization of the Greenhouse at the National Arboretum in Washington. Its work includes designing new laboratory facilities, an 11,400-square-foot greenhouse and offices for the research arm of the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

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