Downtown fountain flows again

The Baltimore Sun

Water is again flowing in the fountain on the northwest corner of Pratt and Charles streets. After a six-year hiatus, the fountain's revival was not lost on those who frequently see it.

"You pass by it every day, and something just wasn't right. But this is cool, a sign of continuing improvement," said Michael Rogers, a Baltimore Convention Center worker, as he watched flowing water in the fountain yesterday.

The France-Merrick Fountain had become a receptacle for leaves, trash and rainwater since 2001, when city officials cut it off after learning the mechanical system needed a $60,000 overhaul. For years the city said it could not afford to fix the fountain, but this year, the Downtown Partnership stepped forward with a $30,000 contribution.

The Downtown Partnership is a nonprofit corporation created to make the city's business and tourist areas cleaner and safer. It's supported with money from downtown property owners. Yesterday, it sent some of its workers to clear debris from the fountain, which resembles a mini-Stonehenge with water.

Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership, said the fountain had become an issue of aesthetics. Its restoration also comes at a time when the Downtown Partnership and city agencies are beginning a 16-block-area redesign of Pratt Street.

The plan calls for remaking Pratt Street with sparkling fountains, well-designed restaurants and landscaped walkways. The proposal also suggests a trolley and other changes.

Getting the France-Merrick Fountain up and running is one of the first steps.

"When fountains are working again, it sends a message to the public that people care about the city," Fowler said. "We need to have water and life on one of our most important streets here." The fountain is expected to be running from March to November.

City officials could not say how much it would cost to operate the fountain but said steps were taken to keep expenses down.

"It's a recirculating fountain, so it doesn't waste water. And it filters the water, so it keeps it clean, kind of like a swimming pool," said Anthony P. Wallnofer Jr., deputy director for operations for the Department of Transportation.

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