A New Vision for Baltimore’s Middle Branch Waterfront Draws Closer to Reality as BOE Signs First Contract

BALTIMORE, MD.  — Today, the Baltimore City Board of Estimates awarded an initial contract to West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture to develop the Middle Branch Waterfront Master Plan. This is the first step toward creating a network of world-class parks, trails, and public recreation opportunities along the Patapsco River’s 11-mile shoreline in South Baltimore. West 8 and its team of sub-consultants were selected from a roster of qualified firms and three finalists that participated in an invited design competition in 2019.

The $325,200 contract with West 8 covers the first of six planned phases in the Master Plan, focusing on site surveys and strategies to engage and communicate with area stakeholders about the plan. The work is funded by casino local impact grants overseen jointly by Baltimore City and the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, as well as capital and operating funds secured from the State of Maryland by the Parks & People Foundation. Baltimore City’s Department of Planning, working in consultation with the Departments of Recreation and Parks and other city and state agencies, will oversee the contract.

“This contract is the first step in a plan that has seen great community input and support for transforming the Middle Branch into Baltimore’s next great waterfront,” said Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young. “The fact that we are moving forward with West 8’s vision signals that we are planning for a bright future in Baltimore even while we address the challenges of today.”

“With this vision for the Middle Branch, we have an opportunity to correct the historical injustice that has divided South Baltimore neighbors from their waterfront for many decades,” said Michael Middleton, Executive Director of the Cherry Hill Development Corporation and Chair of the South Baltimore 7 Coalition. “Now, at last, our residents are reclaiming what is rightfully theirs.”

West 8’s work dovetails with the construction of a transformational capital project expected to break ground this summer—with the intention to activate a portion of this waterfront sooner rather than later. The new Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center at Cherry Hill will include a gymnasium, indoor and outdoor pools, fitness center, a raised walking track, and an adjacent athletic field complex in Reedbird Park. Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks is overseeing the development of the fitness center and fields, with $25 million in total funding coming from the City, the State of Maryland, South Baltimore Gateway Partnership and the Cal Ripken Senior Foundation.

“As the new hub for indoor and outdoor recreation activities, the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center will establish a gateway into the Cherry Hill community while encouraging interaction and collaboration with residents from across the region,” said Reginald Moore, Executive Director of Baltimore City Recreation and Parks. “The overhaul of the Middle Branch Waterfront is an added piece to our commitment to reimaging recreation for Baltimore and its communities.”

“Now more than ever, we need to take bold steps forward as a city,” said Brad Rogers, Executive Director of the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership. “We’re not just dreaming it, we’re doing it. We’re building Baltimore’s next great waterfront, a place that belongs to everyone.”

“The Middle Branch is the region’s next great potentially uniting force,” said Frank Lance, President and CEO of the Parks and People Foundation. “We are excited to be part of this effort, as we move forward on the promise of the Middle Branch and surrounding communities.”

The Middle Branch Waterfront Master Plan is expected to take about 15 months to complete. It will ultimately produce detailed design guidelines for a pipeline of capital projects that will improve the environmental quality of South Baltimore and connect the waterfront with adjacent neighborhoods, zones targeted for new mixed-use development, and the regional trail network. Once fully built out, the network of new waterfront open spaces will extend from the Locust Point Marine Terminal through Port Covington, the Spring Garden Industrial Area, and the Casino Entertainment District, to the neighborhoods of Westport, Cherry Hill and Brooklyn, and connecting to the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center.

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