More than 40 years ago, the City of Baltimore transformed its Inner Harbor into a world-class attraction that set the standard for urban waterfronts. Once again, Baltimore has the opportunity to make lasting, positive change with the transformation of the waterfront along the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River in South Baltimore. The moment has arrived to unite nearby neighborhoods by providing amenities within a connected system of parks and trails, restored wetlands and opportunities for recreation. The Middle Branch will be the crown jewel in Baltimore’s network of great public parks and one of the country’s next great waterfronts.
The local neighborhoods, businesses, public institutions and community groups that surround the Middle Branch have been laying the groundwork for this ambitious undertaking for years, through efforts to replace post-industrial landfills and brownfields with trails and parks.
To further to their efforts and launch a holistic movement to transform the shoreline, the City of Baltimore engaged the Parks & People Foundation to reach out to stakeholders surrounding the Middle Branch and help identify professional design teams with the appropriate talent and experience to re-envision the waterfront with active community input. Starting in 2018, Parks & People engaged hundreds of community members and stakeholders to identify goals, document priorities and launch a process that will bring this long-held dream to reality.
Based on feedback, Parks & People worked with Jones Kroloff Associates to curate an invited design competition for the project in Spring 2019. This process identified a list of qualified firms with a national and global scope of experience in their past work with a focus on urban waterfronts. From this list, three firms were invited to develop design proposals for the Middle Branch based on priorities gleaned from the community’s input.
The public received opportunities to interact with competition teams and comment on their proposals. This feedback was provided to jury of professional experts and local representatives who reviewed the teams’ proposals in detail and ranked the entries.
The selected firm will work with community members to create a network of open spaces and connectivity that brings local residents and others from throughout the region to a new type of waterfront park system that is compatible with the native ecology of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The project will likewise connect the waterfront to upland parks and recreation centers in neighborhoods – a “recreation shed” – affording safe, equitable access for healthy activities and community cohesion.