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Baltimore’s poorly designed downtown

Baltimore residents talk about Baltimore's Harborplace as a tourist attraction. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore  Sun video)

Any view of our nation’s major cities shows fully developed spectacular downtown areas. The Baltimore City Planning Department doesn’t seem to realize the impact of empty or poorly designed downtown areas on visitors, commercial development and pedestrians (“Harborplace is very ’80s. Here’s how to fix it,” June 20).

It allowed for the demolition of McKeldin Square without requiring a replacement design or plan. McKeldin offered a cooling pool in summer and skating in winter, a refreshing waterfall and a convenient over-traffic walkway. The planning department also allowed for the demolition of the iconic Morris Mechanic Performing Arts Center without requiring the developer to have a building permit issued by the city and a definitive schedule for its replacement, ergo, another eyesore empty lot. Similarly, the former News American property continues to be an abusive eyesore to Pratt Street, Baltimore’s most pedestrian-impressionistic and traveled boulevard. Speaking of boulevards, Pratt Street should have resembled the famous Paris boulevard, Champs-Elysees except the planning department allowed the encroachment of restaurant and other fare into Pratt Street’s promenade.

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Readers who are familiar with the popular Union Square in San Francisco should wonder why the City Hall Plaza was redeveloped into its current banal unimaginative presence, replacing its former tremendously popularly uses — playing chess and checkers and just relaxing — another missed opportunity. When Struever Bros. hired my firm, The Leon Bridges Company, for their redevelopment of Lexington Terrace, they insisted on having a completed set of design, construction documents and development financing before any evacuation of existing residents, and before any demolition.

For the replacement of the Perkins Housing Development, I wonder if city planning will insist upon this procedure before resulting in another empty lot. Finally, has anyone seen that awful needle-like structure called 414 Light Street? Why didn’t city planning insist upon a substantial landscaped set-back from Light Street that compliments the beautiful landscaped area across the street and eliminate another open surface parking lot in our Inner Harbor? Please city planning, no more bloopers.

Leon Bridges

The writer is a member of American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows and a retired Morgan State University professor of architecture and planning.

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