In the heart of downtown Baltimore is a park named for our father and grandfather, Theodore R. McKeldin, who served as Baltimore mayor for two separate terms (1943 to 1947 and 1963 to 1967) and Maryland governor from 1951 to 1959. It is an honor that recognizes his vision and hard work to revive Baltimore and its waterfront at a time when the city's economy and population were starting to show signs of faltering. It is also a monument, however, to failed concepts of urban place-making. The square's weakness as a public space is the reason why we embrace the demolition of the fountain and the creation of new, dynamic park.

McKeldin Square, and the fountain associated with it, sits at Pratt and Light streets, the busiest intersection in Baltimore City and, arguably, the state of Maryland. It is one of the primary gateways into downtown. In fact, millions of visitors, residents and employees walk through the square every year, and some of the greatest corporate names in the state overlook it.

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Currently, the square and fountain divide the heart of downtown from the Inner Harbor. The fountain blocks views in and out of the harbor, and it faces only one direction even though it is visible from all sides. The back of the fountain offers a poor greeting at one of the prime gateways into Baltimore, creating a weak first impression for visitors as well as prospective residents and employees. For many months out of the year, the water in the fountain does not run, leaving a dry, poorly-lit, desolate hole. The fountain suffers from aging concrete and metalwork; its pumps are often nonfunctional, making it very expensive to operate. Today, Pratt Street has more pedestrians on it than any other corridor in the region, but you won't see many of them in McKeldin Square. It feels hot and barren in the summer and cold and abandoned in the winter.

We strongly support the plan to remake McKeldin Square into a truly great urban park, one that can accommodate large crowds for civic events or demonstrations, yet feels intimate to those seeking a spot under a tree where they can eat lunch, read a book or watch the world go by. Such improvements will make a much more fitting memorial to our father and grandfather than the austere square that currently bears his name.

When the original square and fountain were constructed, the designers didn't consult our family. Advocates for the new square, however, have solicited and received significant public input from our family and the community through at least four public workshops. They secured support for demolishing the fountain through numerous appearances before the city's Planning Commission, Public Art Commission, and Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel. Preservation bodies of the city and state have deemed the fountain and square to be non-historic. Officials from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to Gov. Larry Hogan have invested in the project, which has also gained support from: the Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds (which paid for the original fountain), all of the properties surrounding the square, and organizations like Downtown Partnership and Waterfront Partnership, representing thousands of additional property owners.

Over the next few months, the skywalks and fountain will be demolished, immediately unveiling an open space with tremendous views. From Harborplace to the Hyatt, from The Gallery to Sullivan's Steakhouse, all of the wonderful street-level activity will finally be connected. For the first time, the energy of the space will be realized. Temporarily, a lawn will be planted in the footprint of the fountain, where impervious concrete once stood. Over the subsequent months, architects and planners will refine the design for more permanent improvements to the square, which will include native plants, more trees and smaller water features that can be easily turned off to accommodate special events. The new design will provide more space for public gatherings.

It was the bold vision of our father and grandfather to create a stunning Inner Harbor from the remnants of run-down piers and a fading industrial port. He was at the vanguard of those who saw Baltimore for what it could be, not what it was. Two generations later, we have learned new lessons about how to create a successful public space. It is time to refine the original ideas and create an urban place that is inviting and has appeal year-round. It is what Theodore R. McKeldin, a man of the people, deserves.

Courtney J. McKeldin (courtney@mckeldin.com) is the daughter-in-law of Theodore R. McKeldin. Theodore R. McKeldin, Jr., Theodore R. McKeldin III and Caroline McKeldin Wayner also contributed to this op-ed.

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