Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Almost Time for Monument Lighting

It's almost that time of year! When the Washington Monument is lit up in Mount Vernon, you know it's Christmas season in Baltimore. The Monument was recently voted as the most recognizable landmark in the city by the Baltimore Sun, and the holiday lights make it much more the centerpiece!

If you're free Thursday night at 5:30pm, make your way to Mt Vernon Place for the show!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing everyone out there a Happy Thanksgiving and a long weekend!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tremont Grand is Getting Ready for Christmas

photo by me
The Christmas lights are going up at the Tremont Grand, and the rest of downtown Baltimore. The lights are up on Pratt Street and Charles St already, and Santa's palace has arrived at the Inner Harbor. A newer addition I noticed this year, are lights strung in the trees along Pratt Street, but I have yet to snap a good picture of that.

The day after tomorrow marks the beginning of the Christmas Season, despite what retailers say its not November 1st, so you'll be seeing more lights going up. Honestly, this is my favorite time of the year in Baltimore.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why Baltimore Needs to Save the USF&G Annex and Others

USF&G Annex at Left, old USF&G Building (now Hampton Inn) at Right
Sitting silent and abandoned at 26 S. Calvert Street is the old USF&G Annex building. The original home for USF&G is right next door on the corner of Redwood, but it was preserved as a Hampton Inn in recent years. However, the 12-story Annex built in 1920 has a delayed date with the wrecking ball.

In 2008 the city approved the mixed-use redevelopment called CityScape. You may have heard about it in the news, but it was supposed to add two hotels, apartments, and a 200-car garage surrounding the Brookshire Suites on two sides, and topping off at 30 stories. In order to make this happen, eight building on Lombard Street and Calvert Street would have to come down, including the Annex. However, this never happened for two reasons. First, the Recession hit full force the the funding for the project was never finalized, and second, questions were raised over the bid to demolish the buildings and the work abruptly stopped.

In a way the Recession helped to save the Annex, because if they demolition had been complete, you can almost guarantee that not construction would have taken place and Baltimore would be left with another downtown empty lot. Now that the building still stands we should be asking ourselves, should it really be lost? Can't developers find a better purpose for it? Apartments for instance? In Baltimore, we have a knack for knocking down the old in place of the new (when actual development occurs), but when we devalue our older architecture and leave it for the wrecking ball, we are losing some of the character that makes Baltimore what it is. These examples of architecture cannot be replaced. Long gone are the days of embellishments, grandeur of design, and styles that accentuated stone and brick, so why lose more?

The bigger loss is demolishing these buildings, and having nothing to replace them. Baltimore has a problem with tearing down its buildings for new development, but then nothing happens. Look at the old McCormick Spice building, the Tower Building, the Southern Hotel, all razed for new projects that never materialized, and now have sat as surface parking lots for over 15 years.

Instead let's look at the USF&G Annex, and think about adaptive-reuse and not the wrecking ball. Could you imagine if there wasn't the Bromo Selzter Tower, or the Shot Tower, or the Hutzler Department Store? We need to let an old part of Baltimore live on in a new way.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Progress at JHU Grad Tower

Photo by me
So, barely a floor of concrete and rebar isn't really progress, but it's a start! The construction at the new JHU Graduate Student Tower now named "929" for its address at 929 N. Wolfe Street, is underway. This is the first floor of what will be a 20-floor residence hall for students on the JHU Medical Campus. It is only two blocks south of the main hospital, across the street from the newest building in the Biotech Park, and on the southern end of the EBDI redevelopment site.

On a blustery day like today, it appears that the construction crews are keeping to ground work. With the wind whipping around in the wake of last night's storms (and possible tornado), I can't imagine it would be fun to try to send heavy equipment through the air.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pros/Cons of New Arena at the Inner Harbor

photo credit, The Baltimore Sun
Recently this past week the GBC proposed a plan to build a new arena on the site of the oldest section of the Convention Center at Pratt and Charles Streets. Now the city is seeking proposals, again, for a new arena to replace 1st Mariner Arena, but prefers this time to use an alternative site. The original proposals in 2008 sought to replace the arena on site, but it would leave Baltimore without a major indoor venue for concerts, sports, and other events for at least two years. By building the new arena at a different spot in the city, this will allow 1st Mariner to remain open during the construction of the new space. This leads to a few pros and cons that I can think of.

  • The Inner Harbor site would be closer to Camden Yards and the rest of Harborplace, helping to draw visitors to that area.
  • Will at the same time replace a portion of the convention center with new exhibiting and meeting space, which can encourage more conventions per year.
  • Allow for new development at the 1st Marina site.
  • Potentially won't help to break up the 4-block wall that is devoid of retail space or any other life on the south side of Pratt, unless the developers add some type of retail on the Pratt and Charles street front.
  • A long timeline for replacement for the 1st Marina site could leave a block-sized undeveloped plot for who knows how long. When we consider the stalled Superblock site, and the already slow development on the Westside, it could be a very long time.
  • Takes away from encouraging development to the Westside, when the city should be looking at expanding downtown redevelopment instead of concentrating everything around the harbor.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Skyline Roadtrip - Cincinnati

View from Carew Tower, new Great American Tower at left
 Cincinnati boasts a population around 333,000, making it the 3rd largest city in the state of Ohio. Sitting just across the Kentucky state line along the Ohio River it was settled in 1788 and named "Cincinnati" by the Arthur St. Clair the governor of the Northwest Territory to honor the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of former officers of the Continental Army.

The city is known for the Cincinnati Bengals and Reds, Fountain Square, the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University, an incomplete and abandoned subway, and of course it's architecture.

Up until this year the tallest building in the city was the 49-story art deco Carew Tower which opened in 1931. It was recently surpassed by the 660 ft Great American Tower. The Carew Tower along with the 31-story Hilton Hotel it is connected to take up an entire city block right off Fountain Square. Together they are generally seen as one of the finest examples of French Art Deco. Originally it housed the Mabely & Carew Department store, but today it is a mix of retail and and the upper floors have remained offices.

$2 gets your to the observation deck on the very top of the 49 floor. Believe me this is no Empire State Building deck. You take the elevator to the 25th floor and then a small closet-sized elevator up to the 48th floor, and then the last flight up by metal staircase takes you to a small desk where you pay your two-bucks and then out the door. The views are great, but the railing seems a bit low and there is no protective cage, you really feel a rush. (I took a few pictures and retreated back inside).

From up-top you catch a good glimpse of the city, the Ohio River and its bridges. One in particular is the Roebling Bridge, Cincinnati's finest, built in 1866 as a prototype for its larger and more famous cousin, the Brooklyn Bridge.

View of the Roebling Bridge, the Ohio River, and Kentucky
One part of Cincinnati most people may not know about is it's forgotten, unfinished subway running underneath downtown. 2.2 miles were completed along with three underground stations in the early 1920s until it was abandoned during the great depression. The line was never finished and trains never operated along the line. The good news is, Cincinnati will begin construction on its streetcar line next year which will connect the waterfront with downtown and north.

With more cities proposing and building streetcars, this could be a big push for projects like the one in Baltimore.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rotunda Cinemas grow to three screens, with more to come - baltimoresun.com

Rotunda Cinemas grow to three screens, with more to come - baltimoresun.com

UBalt Construction Camera

Screen Shot from construction cam
On the University of Baltimore's website you can follow along with the construction of the new Angelos Law Center with a construction camera. The camera gives you a view of the site from across Mount Royal Ave. Right now, it is just a big hole in the ground, but soon the construction crane should go up and the new law building will go vertical. The Angelos Law Center will top off at 12 stories and should open in 2012.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ready for the Light Up

Photo by me
The holiday lights on the Washington Monument are strung and ready to be lit up on December 2nd. The old lights were replaced last year with new LED strands which are brighter and don't have a tendency to burn out. The monument already is one of the most recognizable structures that dots our city skyline, but when it is all light up for the holidays it is hard to miss. Sure other cities have giant Christmas trees, but we have something we can call uniquely Baltimore. Unfortunately for this year there is a gaping hole in the fence surrounding the monument due to last week's van accident. Nevertheless, old George will still get his lights.

The 39th annual celebration entitled A Monumental Occasion will occur a 5:30pm on December 2nd. For more details visit the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

General Election

Today is the Maryland General Election, so go out there and remember to vote. Polling places are open between 7am and 8pm, so you have plenty of time.

While Baltimore Skyline isn't endorsing any candidates, we do endorse the election process, so take the time and flex your civic muscles. One thing's for sure, we're looking forward to Wednesday, November 3rd, when all those stupid campaign commercials are over!