“Next Saturday’s tour of “Lafayette Square By Foot” carries an accurate secondary description: “Baltimore Thru the Ages!” This neighborhood, constructed around a public park, has ties to the Civil War, slavery, and the monied Victorians who gave way to Baltimore’s African-American upper middle class. Did I mention that jazz legend Billie Holiday once lived around the corner too?
The square itself is a fascinating, if overlooked, urban destination. On a chilly April afternoon, I observed its detached beauty. It was quiet and occupies high ground. You could observe its history in the facades of all the grand mansions. You visualize Baltimore’s 19th-century wealth one minute and the next imagine how those fortunes moved on.”
Have you heard about the Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel project? One replacement proposed for this aging tunnel threatens to demolish several blocks of historic West Baltimore. Four public meetings in April offer opportunities to learn more about the project and share your views.
What is the B&P Tunnel Project?
The Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel is a railroad tunnel on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) line in use between Penn Station and the West Baltimore MARC Station for over 140 years. Today, the tunnel is used by Amtrak, MARC Commuter Rail and Norfolk Southern Railway. It is also a bottleneck affecting the reliability of rail service up and down the northeast. One proposed replacement to the B&P Tunnel (known as Alternative 11: Robert Street South) provokes serious concerns about the demolition of historic buildings in West Baltimore. Please come out to a public meeting this month to learn more about the B&P Tunnel project and voice your concerns about the long-term consequences of Alternative 11 on historic West Baltimore neighborhoods.
Last year, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and Amtrak started work on a study to evaluate the condition of the existing tunnel and propose alternatives for rail service through Baltimore. After public meetings in June and October 2014, the project published a Preliminary Alternatives Screening Report (pdf) that identified and evaluated 16 possible options (illustrated in the map below).
This preliminary review selected four alternatives to advance to a second round of review. Building nothing (Alternative 1) or rehabilitating the existing tunnel (Alternative 2) are two options that are unlikely to meet the long-term need for improved rail service. The two remaining options (Alternative 3: Great Circle Passenger Tunnel and Alternative 11: Robert Street South) both require expensive new tunnels. Unfortunately, Robert Street South also appears to require the demolition of several blocks of historic rowhouses within the proposed Midtown Edmondson National Register Historic District and demolition of the 1911 American Ice Company.
Learn more or share concerns at a public meeting in April
Starting next week, MDOT, FRA, Amtrak and the Baltimore City Department of Transportation are hosting a series of meetings to offer members of the public an opportunity to learn more about the project, ask questions and offer input on the process.
All four meetings are scheduled from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., with a formal presentation starting at 6:30 p.m. The same information will be shared at each meeting in the series:
Monday, April 13 at Gilmor Elementary, 1311 North Gilmor Street
Tuesday, April 14 at Mt. Royal Elementary, 121 McMechen Street
Monday, April 20 at Westside Elementary, 2235 North Fulton Avenue
Tuesday, April 21 at Lockerman Bundy Elementary, 301 N. Pulaski Street
To be added to the project mailing list, or to submit your comments, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For other questions or for special accommodations at any of these upcoming public meetings, contact Ms. Odessa Phillip, PE, Environmental Project Manager at the Baltimore City Department of Transportation at (410) 396-6856 or Odessa.email@example.com.
We are excited to begin the year with some good news for the future of Baltimore’s Hebrew Orphan Asylum. With the Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation taking the lead, we have made great strides towards the preservation and reuse of this important West Baltimore landmark.
Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development has granted the Coppin Heights CDC $100,000 to stabilize the building. Not only does stabilization address the building’s severely compromised roof but it also allows architects and engineers to work safely inside to assess conditions and complete redevelopment plans.
Coppin Heights CDC has now secured $10 million in state and federal funding with support from the Maryland Sustainable Communities Tax Credit program, the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit program, and the New Markets Tax Credit program. This is great progress towards securing the resources necessary to restore the building and bring it back as an asset to the neighborhoods of Greater Rosemont.
Finally, just this afternoon, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown announced that West Baltimore, including the area around the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, one of five new Health Enterprise Zones across the state—a program that opens up new incentives for providing medical care to residents in under served neighborhoods like West Baltimore. The announcement comes as a welcome news, as the Hebrew Orphan Asylum is slated to be transformed into the Center for Health Care and Healthy Living to help address the same health disparities that the new Health Enterprise Zone is designed to reduce.
At Coppin State University, the building’s current owner, Dr. Mortimer Neufville is stepping in to serve as interim president after the resignation of Dr. Reginald Avery. Dr. Neufville takes the helm in a new day for the Hebrew Orphan Asylum as both CSU and the larger University of Maryland system have expressed their strong support for the project and are working together to make sure the building is restored and reused. Things are moving quickly for the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and we are more than optimistic that 2013 will see great steps forward for its preservation and reuse as a center for revitalization in West Baltimore.
In February, we celebrated the announcement that Baltimore’s Hebrew Orphan Asylum received over $2.5 million in support from the Maryland Sustainable Communities Tax Credit program. In order to secure the claim to these tax credits, the Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation was required to pay a 3% fee – over $75,000 – which posed a tough challenge for a small non-profit. For the past several months, Dr. Gary Rodwell has worked with Baltimore Heritage and other partners to continue promoting interest in the project and identify partners who could provide the necessary funding. Thankfully, Coppin State University has stepped forward to pay the fee and secure the Hebrew Orphan Asylum’s claim to the state historic tax credits. With this support, the Coppin Heights CDC is in a strong position to continue planning and push forward with fundraising for the rehabilitation of the building.
The past few weeks have also marked the end of work by the Red Line Station Area Advisory Committees – groups of volunteer residents, business owners, and other stakeholder who collaborated with designers, planners, architects and land-use experts to bring their insight into the design and planning of the nineteen proposed Red Line stations. The Rosemont Station Area Advisory Committee produced a vision plan (find a PDF here) for the future of the Rosemont area that highlighted the importance of historic district designation for neighborhood revitalization, established the reuse of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum as a key goal and considered landmark designation for the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and other historic properties.
Baltimore Heritage is helping make this vision a reality by starting to prepare a historic district nomination for the neighborhoods of Greater Rosemont and by working with the Coppin Heights CDC towards the restoration and reuse of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. As we continue to strive for the revitalization of historic West Baltimore neighborhoods, we welcome any questions or suggestions.
Beginning Memorial Day weekend, we are launching a brand-new series of Baltimore by Bike tours to highlight historic places in Baltimore. We are especially pleased that Dr. Ralph Brown, pediatrician, history lover, and founder of Monumental Bike Tours, has come out of tour retirement to lead many of our rolling sojourns this year. Our first tour – The Monuments of Baltimore – is this Sunday, May 27 for an affordable $10 or check out our free tour of West Baltimore Parks on National Trails Day, Saturday, June 2.
The Monuments of Baltimore
Sunday, May 27, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm RSVP today!$10 per person.
Meet in front of the Lee-Jackson statute across the street from the main entrance to the Baltimore Museum of Art. The tour will return before noon.
What better way to get into the spirit of Memorial Day than by learning about Baltimore’s great historic monuments? Peddle between major and minor landmarks with a full dose of history along the way from Dr. Ralph Brown.
Explore West Baltimore Parks
Saturday, June 2, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm RSVP today!Free!
Meet at the Francis Scott Key Monument – Eutaw Place and Lanvale Street.
West Baltimore’s unique landscape of parks and gardens feature everything from a monument to Francis Scott Key to innovative bioswales for sustainable stormwater management. The best way to get to know these local treasures? Hop on your bike and join us for a free National Trails Day ride through West Baltimore parks! Together with our partner Bikemore (a new citywide bike advocacy group), we’ll take an easy two-hour ride visiting over 10 small parks and gardens across west and southwest Baltimore.
Find more upcoming bike tours, including East Baltimore Bakeries by Bike on Saturday June 16 and West Baltimore Murals by Bike on Sunday, September 16 on our new Baltimore by Bike page!