Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has a wide range of attractions for families and acres of open space, planners say, but it doesn’t have many quiet outdoor spaces where a mother can take her baby in a stroller or where area residents can relax without running into throngs of tourists.
Two local nonprofit groups are working to address that shortcoming by creating a $2 million waterfront park for families living in the Inner Harbor and Harbor East communities.
Pierce’s Park is the name of a public space that is expected to open by the fall of 2011 on a one-acre parcel on Inner Harbor Pier 5, between the Columbus Center and Eastern Avenue. A collaborative effort between the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore and the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance, it will be dedicated to Pierce J. Flanigan III, a Baltimore businessman who championed the project and died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage while on a business trip to Chicago two years ago.
Preliminary plans by Mahan Rykiel Associates, which will be presented to Baltimore’s Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel on Thursday, call for the park to be divided into two areas.
One area will be for toddlers and young children, and most likely will be fenced off. The other will be for older children and others. There will be works of art that kids can climb on or interact with, a “willow tunnel” to explore, earth berms, a bioswale to catch rainwater, and other green features designed to meet the city’s goals for sustainability.
Besides honoring a respected civic leader, planners say, the new park will complete a heavily traveled but unfinished area between the Inner Harbor and Harbor East. But more than anything, it will help meet the need for a place on the east side of the Inner Harbor “where families can gather and children can play safely,” said Waterfront Partnership executive director Laurie Schwartz.
The nonprofit partnership was formed in 2005 to help enhance and maintain the city’s waterfront, at a time when Baltimore’s parks department had a limited budget. The partnership employs safety and hospitality guides and oversees landscaping and maintenance of the harbor promenade and nearby areas.
According to Schwartz, “greening” the unfinished area between the Inner Harbor and Harbor East has been a high priority for the partnership. Several years ago, she said, the family alliance approached the partnership, looking for land to create a park for families living east of the Inner Harbor.
The alliance represents about 2,000 families who live in or near downtown Baltimore. One of its board members is one of Flanigan’s daughters, Emily Flanigan Hiller, who lives in Little Italy with her husband and two children, now 4 and 7.
Schwartz said she suggested using the land south of Columbus Center for the park, and planning got under way before Pierce Flanigan died. A Waterfront Partnership board member and Harbor East resident, Flanigan headed P. Flanigan & Sons, and was pleased that the partnership was working on the park project, Schwartz said.
On the day of Pierce Flanigan’s memorial service, she said, several waterfront partnership board members suggested that dedicating the park to Pierce Flanigan would be a fitting tribute to him, and the idea took hold.
“The idea of an open space that includes sculpture and nature would very much suit him,” said his widow, Susan Flanigan, who took her husband’s place on the Waterfront Partnership board. “He would also be pleased with the concept of children and families being together.”
Ziger Snead is the architectural consultant for the park. The Waterfront Partnership is negotiating a land use agreement that calls for the city-owned parcel to be leased to the nonprofit.
Working with the Baltimore Community Foundation, the partnership and the family alliance already have raised more than $1 million. Schwartz said the group hopes to meet its fundraising goal in time to begin construction next spring.
Schwartz said she sees parallels between the proposed park and plans by the owners of Harborplace to adjust its tenant mix so the shopping pavilions appeal more to local residents and office workers.
The original planners of today’s Inner Harbor talked about making it “a playground for local residents,” she said. Decades later, “we’re still committed to finding ways to bring residents to the harbor.”