Thursday, August 15, 2019

Design selected for new Center for Architecture & Design at One Charles Center

AIA Baltimore announced  the Baltimore architecture firm Quinn Evans as the winner of a design competition for the new Architecture and Design Center today. The center is to be established at the former Staples store in One Charles Center facing Fayette Street and is scheduled to open early 2020
Mies van der Rohe tower One Charles Center
(Photo: Philipsen)

The selection of this space was the culmination of a several year long effort to give Baltimore a stronger place in which architecture and design can be celebrated than the current AIA headquarters at 11-1/2 West Chase Street allows.

With a design selected AIA now can convert the 3,600 square feet space retail area below the iconic Mies van der Rohe tower which has stood vacant for years after the office supply store left. Also vacant is the former Hamburger clothing store across the street which owner Peter Angelos has transformed into the Hopkins downtown center. Hopkins has since moved to Harbor East.

AIA's move will consolidate architecture oriented functions and give this area of downtown an important boost. The Center will be AIA Baltimore and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation’s new headquarters, and will provide collaborative administrative and program space for allied professional industry, advocacy, and education organizations, including Baltimore Heritage, Inc., the Baltimore Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (Bmore NOMA), the Baltimore Chapter of the Urban Land Institute (ULI Baltimore), the Maryland Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA Maryland), and the Maryland Chapter of the American Planning
The retail area at the base of One Charles Center will become the Baltimore
Center for Architecture and Design  (photo: AIA)
Association (APA Maryland), and the Charles Street Development Corporation. The Center will also include flexible program and gallery space, and a small retail space for books on Baltimore architecture.

AIA Baltimore and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation will be relocating from their Mount Vernon headquarters to the Center for Architecture and Design in early 2020. AIA Baltimore plans to sell its current building that it held since since 1988.

Nine firms submitted qualifications in response to the Request for Qualifications (RFQ). The design jury, comprised of AIA leaders from other AIA chapter and foundation centers for architecture and design, scored the submissions according to the criteria set forth in the RFQ, and made the determination to shortlist 4 firms (rather than 3 as originally planned). Each shortlisted firm was provided with a stipend of $5000 to prepare for the 45 minute presentation and Q&A with the jury on August 1. Documentation on the project was also shared with each team, including the report from the visioning session.

Quinn Evans Architects was selected to design the Baltimore Center for Architecture and Design following a visioning process for programming the space held in May of this year. Quinn Evans Baltimore office used to be Cho Benn Holback and is located in the Mies tower at One Charles Center above the new AIA space. 

AIA states in its press release this Thursday that 
"the proposal from Quinn Evans Architects fulfills AIA Baltimore’s vision to make the Center for Architecture and Design serve as a high profile and visible space to showcase the important role of architects and design, and as a dynamic hub to engage professionals, students, and the public. The design meets the goals of the AIA Baltimore membership to create a center that represents the forefront of design thinking and be a model for sustainable design best practices. The jury recognized the adaptability of the Quinn Evans design and praised its emphasis on community identity and outreach in built form, the use of locally sourced fabrication, procurement and installation, and its spirit of citizenry and community sustainability."
Survey results from visioning session (AIA Baltimore)

The design concept of Quinn Evans can be seen here. The following other firms were selected to take part in the design competition:

Hord Coplan Macht – View Design Proposal // Fly-Through
Quinn Evans Architects – View Design Proposal (Winner)
RM Sovich Architecture – View Design Proposal
Ziger|Snead Architects – View Design Proposal

Jury members were:
Suzanne Frasier, FAIA, Morgan State University School of Architecture + Planning | President, AIA Baltimore, Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director, AIA Philadelphia/Philadelphia Center for Architecture and Design, Dawn Taylor, Executive Director, Kansas City Center for Architecture & Design, Kim Yao, AIA, Architecture Research Office | President-Elect, AIA New York,
Richard Miller, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, Hoefer Wysocki | President, AIA Dallas/Architecture and Design Exchange.
Architecture Center: Quinn Evans floor plan proposal  (AIA) 
Susanne Frasier, FAIA the 2019 President of AIA and a Morgan professor of architecture said in a statement:
Thanks to everyone who made this moment happen. Our new home at One Charles Center will inspire our membership to be part of something larger than ourselves, even larger than our profession and—with our allied organizations—we will be stronger as a group than we are individually.
Design or architecture centers have been magnets for those interested in design providing an opportunity for the public to appreciate design and buildings in cities such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, DC and Denver among other cities. 

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Penn Station: A huge opportunity not yet captured

The former University of Baltimore moot court room was packed by Baltimoreans curious about what's next with the Penn Station redevelopment plans which have inched forward at a snail's pace.
Amtrak Vice President DJ Stadtler assured the audience that he cares about Baltimore. He even proposed to his wife here, he said. Thirty years ago. Almost as far back reaches Amtrak’s attempt to do something with its Baltimore station, after all it is the one of the busiest stations in the nation.
Station redevelopment massing diagram:
Overpowering height as a backdrop (source: Amtrak/Beatty)

Over a year ago, and after Amtrak had selected a development team in 2017, the first public workshop had been conducted. Now expectations were high to see the progress. But from what was presented, not much design work has happened since 2017 in spite of the high caliber team including Gensler Architects and a British firm specializing in modernizing stations. The development team leaders Tim Pula of Beatty Development and William Struever of Cross Street Partners heaped praise on Amtrak which is spending a $90 million chunk of its $2 billion Northeast corridor budget on Baltimore for additional platforms and to rehabilitate old ones. Amtrak wants to be ready for the moment when in 2022 the new Acela fleet will roll out.

Bill Struever enumerated everything that is great in Baltimore (including that it has many more trains than Denver) and the progress that has been made along the Amtrak corridor east of Penn Station. He emphasized how much Baltimore can benefit from the Amtrak Northeast corridor with its planned high speed trains leaving every 30 minutes to Philadelphia, New York and Washington. (Currently all trains stop in Baltimore). All very true, but woefully underfunded. Some Baltimore leaders and the governor, instead of focusing on the Amtrak projects, wax poetic about impractical projects like MagLev or even Hyperloop. Meanwhile, there is no money for the replacement of the age old B&P tunnel south of Penn station). Struever cited a $400-600 million funding shortfall for the station area vision plan alone. Surely, such an important node deserves to be the "mother of all transit oriented developments (TOD). But the vision as presented was far from being that impressive. The limited ambition could be the result of the lack of funding, but it can also be its cause.
First in line: Much needed Amtrak platform improvements
(Photo: Philipsen)

The vision plan includes a few nice things: it creates a new north-south connection from Lanvale Street to the area south of the station, an added concourse and a several  new buildings on currently derelict lots, especially, the current surface parking lot along Lanvale Street.
I agree that Denver’s Union Station is a good model for the re-use of our station, and I love the idea of building a new headhouse on the north side of tracks and extending the existing over-the-tracks concourse to meet it.  I even agree that high-intensity development on Amtrak’s various sites would be a good thing.  I would of course have been happier if they’d made it all dependent on my own pet ideas - converting Charles and St. Paul Streets to two-way flow, or building a subway line from Penn Station to Charles Center Station (Charlie Duff, President Jubilee, a Station North stakeholder)
But the plan is limited to the Amtrak property along the tracks and the relationships to Station North. All the universities and colleges, and strong players in the area mentioned by Bill Struever remain only an aspiration, since none of them contributed to the masterplan or were integrated to expand the plan's limited scope.

The team mentioned Union Station in Denver a lot, a station that has only one single Amtrak train a day but has managed to spawn a huge amount of redevelopment around its refurbished station and to redefine the entire city.

In fact, the Penn Station team gets it backwards when they refer to Denver: There the development in the surrounding area was the cake and the train station refurbishment was just the frosting, understandably so, with one lone intercity train a day serving Denver. Lacking significant train travel, the beautiful and large Denver station has become a kind of historic food hall with some adjunct train functions. By contrast,  the smaller Baltimore station is already bursting at the seams from current ridership. Amtrak predicts to double its passenger numbers. Baltimore’s station needs to be a functional transportation hub, not a food hall or mall. As in Denver, the emphasis should be on area redevelopment.
The platform and track area behind PennStation with the
waiting area across the tracks (Photo: Amtrak/Beatty)

Denver's real lesson is that a sound masterplan succeed because everyone in a large partnership consisting of the City of Denver, Amtrak, the transit agency RTD and a development team, committed and stuck to it to for over ten years, no matter the headwinds.

Strategic investments systematically opened up the station area to become a giant transit oriented development. One of the first infrastructure improvements was an iconic pedestrian bridge over freight tracks connecting a previously cut-off area for new development. The new footbridge became the optimistic symbol of the redevelopment that was linked to massive public infrastructure such as the relocation of an underground bus hub, a new light rail train station, two new commuter lines, a large iconic tent structure covering the tracks  and finally the historic rehabilitation of the station itself with all its coffee shops, ice cream parlors and restaurants.
“I am a little disappointed in this design, especially with the extensive curbside drop off zones surrounding the station. I am afraid that the design not only fails to accommodate present and future bicycle traffic, but may also jeopardize existing bike infrastructure in the neighborhood. These folks need to visit Western Europe or East Asia to see what a real multi-modal rail station looks like. Greg Hinchliffe, bicycle advocate.
The "vision plan" presented on Tuesday includes neither massive public infrastructure investments nor a partnership and the associated large TOD initiatives nor any iconic structure that would set a signal. Team member Struever himself complained that State and City were mostly absent in the planning and have no money in the plan.

As a result, the vision is geographically shortsighted, constrained  to the narrow strip of  Amtrak right of way instead of casting the net far and wide as Denver did, redefining the entire center city in the process. Denver's strongest aspect is how the various modes of transport from bus and light rail to commuter rail and intercity trains come together in one place and how this intermodal hub is embedded in dense development where there was wasteland before. Baltimore has all those transportation modes as well, but the "intermodal" aspect is actually the vision plan's weakest point. 
Connections diagram  (source: Amtrak/Beatty)

Aside from the noted platform improvements, no transportation improvements are envisioned at all. The light rail link still consists of the barely used orphan spur, buses are still relegated to regular bus stops along the curb, the intercity Bolt bus stop isn't even shown at all. It is unclear where taxis would line up since traffic has been banned from the front of the station and the much touted rideshare services (TNCs) get only a token curb space on Lanvale Street, the stations new north access. The plan assumes that other uses on its own property somehow will make transportation more attractive, a fairly unsupported assumption. The concept plan doesn’t realign a single street or walkway notr does it create additional space for taxis, buses and pick ups, for example by covering more of the sunken track or JFX area. Sure, such moves would cost more money, but they also would make for a much more exciting and functional project, potentially attracting funds.

Most troubling is that the plan doesn’t work well even in its core focus area, the station and adjacent Amtrak property. For example, the quite pleasant but at times already crowded historic waiting area above the tracks. In the new scheme it becomes a connector between the great old station hall and a second train hall on the north side shown as a glass box. It isn't clear how the bridge area can be a connector and a waiting room at the same time without being widened, something that would destroy its historic exterior and interior. It is here where passengers queue up with their luggage before they are let onto the platforms to board their trains. For example the front plaza. Disliked by many for its sculpture and the occasional traffic chaos and almost unlimited car movements that make walking hard, it is still simple in terms of orientation. No question where the door is, where to get a taxi or where to be dropped off. With its additional entrances, clarity of access and movement will be diminished in the suggested plan, especially since all taxis and drop off and pick up have been banned from the front, leaving those functions far less resolved than they are today,  even if the front Plaza is frequently hopelessly congested, which is actually quite expected at a central station in a big city.
Diagram of intermodal connections (source: Amtrak/Beatty)

One can only hope that the design team sits down with MTA, the City, the taxi companies and TNCs (Uber, Lyft etc.) as well as the area’s stakeholders to hash out what space is needed for all the transportation functions and what additional space can be created to allow spacious bus and taxi functions.

Tim Pula of Beatty Development pointed out correctly that TOD needs density. But the suggested solution of the two massive chunky buildings towering over the smallish Beaux Art station and burying the new Nelson Cole apartments on the north side of Lanvale are not a convincing design yet. 

Improving circulation would certainly reduce the space the team has envisioned for income producing uses, at least on the ground floor, but a train station has to function foremost for transportation, not for retail. Amtrak’s Union Station in DC has been cluttered with retail to the detriment of riders. But the recently added bus transit center and a nice bike facility present the right idea of  integrating other modes. 
Development block plan (source: Amtrak/Beatty)

Even more importantly, the State and the City have to realize how vital this project is for Baltimore. They must come to the table with their own planning teams and concepts for economic development and intermodal connections. It is unconscionable to leave all the sins of current conditions such as the dead-end Oliver Street, the dangerous anti-urban I-83 on and off ramps and the sad state of Lanvale Street west of Charles Street untouched. Baltimore has a huge opportunity of playing a strong role along the Northeast rail corridor. The proposed vision falls short of tapping into itt, even if it would be funded which it isn't.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

The full presentation and a survey (until 8/30) can be found here

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The mysterious case of 262 completed apartments standing empty for 9 months

One should think that a gigantic brand-new apartment complex covering two entire city blocks of a struggling inner-city neighborhood should draw plenty of attention, if it remains completely empty a full nine months after a much celebrated ribbon cutting and building tour and if 262 apartments and 17,000 square feet of retail remain frozen in time like Sleeping Beauty ever since.
262 Units completed since Nov 2018 still sit unoccupied (photo: Philipsen)

This morning the eerie quiet around the entire complex was only interrupted by a dark unmarked Sprinter van that furtively backed into one of the alley side parking garage entries before the gate closes again. The scene could not be any more mysterious.

The project in question is La Cite's CenterWest phase 1A apartment complex on Poppleton's Schroeder Street, a project that had been 14 years in the making. At the ribbon cutting on November 2, 2018 Housing Commissioner Braverman said about it: "this is what [Mayor Pugh's] new era of neighborhood investment looks like."  Today, he probably wonders about that.

In all the time since November 2, 2018 only one article in the Baltimore SUN tried to shed some light on the mystery. In May of this year, six month into the hibernation period, the paper headlined "Major Poppleton redevelopment drowning in delays".  At the time, the title seemed to play on the topic of water that the article brought to light: "Major water damage" was quoted from a report that the developer had filed regarding municipal bonds. Those are in play, because the city had to sell them to fund $58 million of tax increment financing (TIF) for the project.  “Due to the failure of these insurance carriers to begin funding the approved scope of [remediation] work the project has been delayed by 6 months at this point", the report was further quoted.

The TIF itself had a somewhat tortured genesis with opposition from Board of Finance member Larry Silverstein after city officials conceded in 2015 that the project was highly problematic and might never get built. In a second session the spending board approved the TIF anyway.
Groundbreaking in February 2017 with Mayor Pugh
(photo: Philipsen)

La Cite's project has been in the making since 2004 when the City had issued a request for proposals and subsequently awarded initial site control to La Cite in 2006.

The course from there was anything but a straight line to success. The entire project had been in question, for example in 2012 when the City and the developer threatened to sue each other for non performance on the awarded sites and Housing had notified the developer of defaulting on the agreement.

But eventually La Cite developer Dan Bythewood and his partner Ian Arias produced. At the ribbon cutting speaker after speaker seemed to have forgotten all past headaches and sang the praises of the project and the entire development team. Development team member Susan Taylor of the magazine Essence closed off with “job well done” and something about “doing God’s work”. The developers also noted that the completed portion was just "8% of what we will build", referring the full 33 acre $800 million project they have in mind for Poppleton.

What could possibly go on right now? Why hasn't been there much visible activity? (In May a few contractors could be seen sitting in one of the retail spaces surrounded by rolled up drawings and papers.) Today furniture in the lobby remains wrapped, doors locked and the garage empty.
Wrapped furniture remains untouched in the
lobby (photo: Philipsen)

Where would water damage come from, in both of the large buildings at once? The note about “extensive water damage to all the project’s cabinets in the kitchens and bathrooms, portions of the cabinets must be removed, replaced, and all surfaces treated, repaired and/or replaced” in the bond report seem mysterious in itself: No roof leak would extend over two large buildings which are separated by a street. Nor would sprinklers go off all at once to cause such damage. Rumor has it that the HVAC system was adjusted incorrectly and caused too much humidity and subsequent condensation. That also appears unlikely during the winter period after the ribbon cutting when heating usually causes air to be too dry. If the heating and cooling is water based (hydronic), a malfunction could cause damage or even bursting pipes from freezing.
Two city blocks rebuilt from the ground up. (photo: Philipsen)

The worker who let the unmarked van into the garage was adorned with a tiny sticker on his shirt that spelled PBI. There seem to be two construction companies in the country under that name. The man was tight-lipped when I asked him what was going on. "Construction issues" he said. When I  asked "mold?" he responded "no". When I pressed on further and asked "structural?" he nodded "yes" and added: "it will be done soon". When I asked about a date, he responded "I can't say that" .

Dan Bythewood, the developer,  responded equally curt to my email inquiry:
"We are building ductwork for HVAC and we are really far along in building 201, with 101 being the larger building and needing more time to complete, but it looks great" Dan Bythewood in an email on 8/7/2019).
This seems to pint towards an HVAC problem but doesn't sound like completion in August as was quoted in the SUN article in May. Further requests to elaborate remained unanswered. So did an inquiry to Housing Commissioner Braverman who is on vacation, two inquiries to the architects at Gensler and an inquiry to Councilman Bullock.
Ribbon cutting Nov 2, 2018 (CharmTV screenshot)

The wall of silence and the difficulties in obtaining public records in the wake of the Baltimore computer outage could explain why the traditional media have not reported on the mystery apartments. They hardly can report rumors.

Not having been able to unearth the hard facts myself, I feel ambivalent about writing this article. But maybe it can help to bring out the truth, at least as far as what happened in terms of basic facts.

The root cause of whatever shortcomings that blocked the buildings from obtaining an occupancy permit are likely mired in some controversy among the many parties involved in construction. In the case something big goes wrong, it is typical that the design team points the finger to the construction team, which in turn may point right back to the design team, whether it is the architect or the engineers. 
The only sign of life: Papers on a table in an
unfinished retail space with gravel floor
The construction team could also point towards errors in the post construction building management if the damage occurred after substantial completion and "turnover" to the owner. However, it isn't clear if that step was ever completed. Apparently no "use and occupancy" permit was ever issued, a fact that saves the owners taxes. Within each of the player teams (Architect, general contractor, owner) there are a slew of subcontracts, each with its own set of responsibilities and liabilities. It isn't surprising that nobody wants to talk.

Meanwhile, cost is racking up. The cost of whatever remediation work itself, the cost of lost rent, the cost of loans and upkeep and the cost for the community for having a white elephant sitting in Poppleton, a community which hoping for a turn-around that 262 households and new retail would bring.

Kitchens and cabinets seemed complete and fine during
the tour at the ribbon cutting
The tax-payers of Baltimore are on the hook, too. The bonds which funded the TIF must be repaid from the increased tax benefits this project would flush into City coffers. But classified as vacant, the project is not yielding the expected property taxes nor the tax benefits from new residents living and shopping in the neighborhood. I don't have the information how much of the TIF has been drawn to date and when the bond service becomes due.

All this is very unfortunate in the long string of hardships that seems to befall this City on a regular base. But whatever happened, it should not be another occasion to gleefully point fingers. However, I think everybody would be better off with more daylight on the indisputable basic facts.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

The article has been updated

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Urban Green Space: An important but widely misunderstood amenity

Central Park is probably the best known urban green space in the world. Everybody knows that it is a valuable asset that makes buildings around it the most expensive property in Manhattan and many know that Frederick Law Olmsted designed it. Few appreciate, how much foresight it took to designate so much land in a tight and rapidly growing area such as the Manhattan peninsula or what philosophy stood behind this vision.
Central Park: Value from not building there

The first misunderstanding is to think that every green space can work such magic, even if it sits in an area with an abundance of space and little density around it. The people of Druid Heights in Baltimore are welcoming a new park named after Cab Calloway even if it means demolition of his childhood home for it and a park that wont have much activity around it.

The opposite misunderstanding is to think that a valuable community can be had without much green space. That is why many developers would rather develop the last bits of desirable land instead of protecting them or set aside open space near new development. The latter attitude plays out in Baltimore County's older inner ring suburbs which, originally developed as suburban refuges from urban density, with very few public parks. Those areas now run out of space to develop.

The typical suburb is defined by low density and privatized the green space, as in a house with a yard.  But in maturing suburbs this game will come to an end and most predict that future development will be multifamily housing, even in the counties.

Baltimore City, no matter its shortcomings, has plenty of beautiful parks and green squares that were arranged by careful planning early on when the City grew and prospered. Olmsted and later his sons had a hand in it. Druid, Leakin, and Patterson parks were driven by similar considerations as Central Park in New York. Washington Square, Union Square and many others remain highly attractive green urban plazas and gathering spaces.
GIS map of Baltimore County: 65% lack access to open space
One has to go a long way, before one can find such well designed urban green spaces in Baltimore County.
In fact, a careful analysis conducted by the non-profit urban land-trust NeighborSpace  together with the National Park Service, shows that contrary to the Olmsted ideal, 65% of County residents don't have access to a public park or open space within a five minute walk from their residence. (full disclosure: I am president of the board of NeighborSpace).

The organization came out with a press release today, celebrating two amendments introduced by County councilmen Marks (R) and Quirk (D). The amendments would alter how much developers can deduct from fees they have to pay if they cannot provide the required open space on their own developments. Open space in the County is regulated as part of "adequate public facilities" just as schools and infrastructure.
Druid Heights: Proposed Calloway Park where houses
once stood

In a vague recognition of Olmsted's vision of "pastoral landscapes" and that every urban and suburban resident should have access to nature, County Code requires that a developer has to set aside 1000 square feet of open space for each new dwelling unit built. Should the developer find it not feasible to provide this open space as part of the intended development, a "fee in lieu" must be paid or offsite open space be provided. The more the County fills up (it has now a significantly larger population than the City), the more difficult it becomes to provide on-site open space, especially for multi-family housing. Thus, large developments in largely built out areas would yield fairly significant fees. This would allow the County to create and manage parks in a more systematic and networked manner than open space set asides inside developments would ever bring about.
Historic squares and parks in Baltimore: Olmsted's hands

So far the theory. In practice, though, developers have used deductions and exemptions to avoid open space creation. Initially all of the downtown Towson area was exempted, and even now developers can discount their fees up to 60% for private outdoor amenities they provide as part of  being competitive in the market,  sometimes located on rooftops and completely inaccessible to the public. Deductible are also landscaped parking lot islands as if they would serve the original purpose of the open space requirement. The NeighborSpace press release states:
Based on a review of public records dating to July 2016, NeighborSpace estimates that the parking islands loophole alone has reduced the open space waiver fees payable to the County by over $1 million, more than the County collected in open space waiver fees in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 combined. The same projects, while generating a need for 32 acres of open space, provided only 3.6% of that amount or 50,572 SF.
Meanwhile the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks  has been nearly saved to death in the name of fiscal austerity. That in spite of the ever growing needs of a growing population and the well recognized danger of disinvestment in older inner ring suburbs. It is yet another misunderstanding to believe that saving on open space management, recreation centers and youth programming is prudent. Of course, the opposite is true, it is penny wise and pound foolish exacting a high price over time as Baltimore City has already found out.
Working with NDC and Morgan students on park concepts: Powhattan Park 
From the analysis of reports regarding open space fees which the previous administration provided,  it is clear that Baltimore County has left millions dollars of fees on the table in recent years of booming development thanks to the generous deductions and obtuse "behind the curtain" methods of calculating fees.  The administration of Johnny Olszewski  campaigned for transparency and openness and is currently in the process of bringing the open space fees in line with regulations the Council previously passed.

Open space in metropolitan areas has become even more important than when Olmsted first developed his somewhat romantic notions about nature. With climate chnage and an ever larger urban conglomeration, green spaces today must absorb stormwater, cool urban heat islands and filter the air. They serve as a place where children can run without being endangered by cars.  Carefully placed and designed open spaces and parks can be part of hiking trail networks, be refuges for wildlife, insects and birds or be facilities for bicyclists, runners and dog-walkers. And as in the case of Central Park, where there is growth they add value to surrounding properties. After decades of  privatization and neglect public spaces and the urban park have come back in traditional ways or in new forms, such as the wildly popular New York Highline park established on abandoned elevated train tracks. One of the functions of these pieces of green infrastructure is place-making, i.e the creation of a place where community can thrive by people meeting and interacting. Sociologists call this human capital. The late New Yorker Jane Jacobs knew this all along: It is a key ingredient of any community.
NeighborSpace park near Towson: Ridgely Manor Park

The new popularity of green spaces manifests itself  quite differently in the City and the County. The shrinking City, equipped with magnificent parks, needs additional residents to pay for the upkeep of the existing parks. This means that the creation of additional open space through demolition is only justifiable where such additional open space is in urgent demand and where it can be managed in such a way that it becomes an asset and not a liability. The proliferation of random green spaces created from abandoned and demolished rowhouses is hardly a green strategy, no matter how hard the Baltimore Green Network Plan tries to make it one.

The still growing County, by contrast, needs to set aside or protect green space wherever there is a chance,  especially inside the urban rural demarcation  line (URDL), where new development is supposed to go to protect the rural north county.  People in those older communities are not willing to accept additional development if it only means more crowded schools, more stormwater runoff, more traffic and less open space without any tangible benefit. For the viable smart growth principle of concentrated development instead of endless sprawl to succeed, it is necessary to invest in the quality of life in older communities. New development has to pay its way towards expanding public amenities and a state of good repair of an already aging infrastructure. NeighborSapce can help securing open space through easements and land protection guarantees that a County Department can not always offer.
The NeighborSpace press release also includes this quote from me:
“The current practice of allowing massive deductions for things that do nothing to address the pressing open space deficit negates and weakens the ability of NeighborSpace and the County Department of Recreation and Parks to provide sufficient open space in the older communities of Baltimore County and in the areas that see the brunt of new development. There are simply not enough resources to protect, improve, and maintain land for much-needed parks, trails, gardens, and natural areas,” NeighborSpace Board Chair Klaus Philipsen
Shortchanging public funds for adequate public facilities in favor of developer profits is shortsighted. It has been done for far too long to the point that some call the past suburban development patterns a Ponzi scheme in which the suburbs pilfered first the City and then their own older communities in favor of ever new shiny things on the periphery of previously pristine farms and forests.
NeighborSpace project with NDC: Maryland Line trail
in Dundalk

The City has begun to recognize that new development should not only help the prosperous neighborhoods where it is located but through community benefits agreements, affordable housing and reinvestment funds help disinvested neighborhoods as well. This is not how developers in the County are used to think. Funding open space adequately through properly set fees is a step in the right direction, though, even if the resulting green spaces are more modest than the historic city parks.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Related blog articles on Community Architect:

Why the suburbs lack parks (2017)

Open space - an essential part of infrastructure (2015)

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Cap and trade for Maryland transportation?

Transportation Climate Initiative a lie?

It doesn't happen every day that transportation activists from the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance (CMTA) or the Sierra Club get drowned out by shouts from other activists. But that is exactly what happened yesterday at a press conference conducted by a transportation coalition of Maryland transportation advocates when CMTA's Brian O'Malley spoke about the the fledgling  multi-state Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), a compact between 13 northeastern states and jurisdictions formed to combat emissions. Maybe that Maryland's Republican  Governor Hogan had signed on to the initiative was suspicious enough for the activists from the Climate Justice Alliance to shout "TCI is a lie" and consider the groups that had planned the press conference ill informed.
Climate Justice Alliance members taking over the press conference
(photo: Philipsen)

The Climate Justice Alliance had been founded in 2013 and acts on a national level including Puerto Rico. About half a dozen members used the press conference, which had no press present, except a brief visit from WBAL TV, to express their doubts about TCI. Only when Baltimore's Sam Jordan, spokesperson for the Transit Equity Coalition (BTEC) spoke was the reception friendly. Jordan, served up sound bites that CMTA or the Sierra Club wouldn't say: "No neo-Nazi in Charlottesville has eliminated 10,000 jobs. Larry Hogan has". (Jordan).  Finally the Alliance members filed out of the room, chanting “nothing about us without us” and the local coalition members were among themselves.
"Transit access is a strong predictor of job access. Its important to create jobs, but workers must be able to reach those opportunities quickly, efficiently and reliably. More highways are not the answer. Maryland must invest in maintaining and expanding public transit," Delegate Robbyn Lewis, MD District 46. 
The press conference (see press release here) took place before the official "workshop" of the TCI organizers at the University of Maryland. The workshop was intended to get public input about how TCI should be organized. The hostile position of the Climate Justice people highlighted that dealing with climate change isn't easy, considering that drastic measures of turning away from fossil fuels will always also have social implications. But even among those who don't deny the urgency to combat greenhouse gas emissions, opinions differ about the approach. Especially when it comes to market driven models as proposed in TCI.


The TCI approach is market based in that it assumes a "cap and trade system". It is loosely based on the emissions trading scheme called Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative known has RGGI or "Reggie" on power plants, also a regional concept in the Northeast of the country. Since it was implemented in 2008 as the nation's first cap and trade system, RGGI reports that states have seen a 37 percent decrease in emissions from electricity, while simultaneously decreasing consumer costsHowever, critics maintain that the caps were too high to have resulted on emission reductions and that those reductions came for other reasons than the cap & trade system. Too loose a framework was also a problem for the European cap & trade systemUnlike the California cap and trade modelReggie doesn't include transportation, i.e.  the nation's largest emitter of greenhouse gases (see my previous blog here). This makes addressing transportation and thus, TCI, of utmost importance. There is an opportunity to learn from Reggie and not set the cap so high again that hardly anybody is in need of trading in credits.
The idea of Reggie
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector. 
The Climate Justice activists called TCI  "Reggie on wheels". As in the case of the power generation emissions, the cap and trade plan intends to put limits on emissions and allows trading overruns for credits from those who stayed under the limits. The general market oriented approach is to put a cost on pollution instead of outright banning it. The idea is, that the cost will incentivize less polluting options and improve competition of the initially more costly environmentally friendly options.

The higher cost of energy caused by Reggie (or in the case of transportation: gas, diesel, vehicles etc.) has a high likelihood of eventually hitting consumers with the risk of increasing the wealth divide in the country. Or as a panelist put it, "the divide between the eco haves and the eco have nots". During the press conference Jordan said “We cannot depend on the market to solve the problem.”During the actual workshop event  positions that felt the market could be sufficiently managed prevailed. “There is a way to fight poverty, pollution and climate change at once” or “when we cut carbon we need to inequalities, too.”  TCI has been talked about for the last ten years. With public workshops it has now moved into public awareness and promises to emerge as a viable option.

The Baltimore Workshop 

At the workshop around 300 lawmakers, business leaders, transportation experts, and public figures met to develop low-carbon investment strategies and priorities for TCI, the regional partnership for clean transportation in Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states.
Baltimore workshop at the University of MD on Lombard Street
Since the conference fell right into the middle of the un-presidential Twitter storm about Baltimore, speaker after speaker expressed their love for Baltimore. Even Hogan's deputy MDOT Secretary Earl Lewis called the attacks deplorable and racists.

More to the point of climate change: panelists and speakers from all walks of life stressed the urgency for action to combat CO2 emissions but also recognized the need of concurrent actions which ensure that "Fenceline Communities" (Kamita Gray, Brandywine resident) get protected. "If not for cap and trade, we wouldn't have three power plants in Brandywine",  Gray contended, maintaining that cap and trade schemes can accelerate the already prevailing method of piling all polluters into disadvantaged communities.

The Georgetown Climate Center at the University of Georgetown is a convener and resource in the process, but many specifics of how TCI is supposed to be organized  still need to be worked out. Clearly governance of 14 Northeast states and jurisdictions will be much harfer than the single state management in California. In addition, local communities will have a voice in the process, if one can believe those speaking yesterday at the workshop. Plus, there was obvious disagreement on how the California cap and trade system, the only one in the US including transportation, has worked out so far.

The California precedent

California's Global Warming Solutions Act goes back 13 years and was augmented by a cap and trade system in 2013 that initially only covered power generation like RGGI but added in 2015 also distributors of transportation, natural gas, and other fuels.
The carbon free California future in a graphic
The passage of AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, marked a watershed moment in California’s history.  By requiring in law a sharp reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, California set the stage for its transition to a sustainable, low-carbon future.  AB 32 was the first program in the country to take a comprehensive, long-term approach to addressing climate change, and does so in a way that aims to improve the environment and natural resources while maintaining a robust economy. 
The Cap-and-Trade Program is a key element of California’s climate plan. It sets a statewide limit on sources responsible for 85 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, and establishes a price signal needed to drive long-term investment in cleaner fuels and more efficient use of energy. The program is designed to provide covered entities the flexibility to seek out and implement the lowest-cost options to reduce emissions.
Money collected from the cap & trade program, i.e. the  Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) is appropriated by the California Legislature.  The agencies administer California Climate Investments programs that facilitate greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions and provide economic, environmental, and public health benefits. Four agencies receive a set portion of each quarterly auction through continuous appropriations enacted in Senate Bill (SB) 862. The investments made are reported annually. In 2017 policy changes  increased the focus on disadvantaged communities and directed additional investments toward low-income communities and low-income households leading to a stronger focus on “priority populations”.
Use of cap and trade revenues in California: Priority Communities

The 2019 report about investments made from proceeds in 2018 shows that "Priority Populations" played a significant role in where the money went.


The one day workshop in Baltimore, one of many that came before and are still to come, was certainly not able to settle the dispute whether the market can or cannot produce significant greenhouse gas reductions or sufficient funds to invest in the technologies needed to achieve them.

However, activists, politicians, Democrats, Republicans, Greens and representatives from across the entire Northeast agreed that urgent action is needed to avert catastrophe. The Sierra Club, which, as noted, is currently coordinating the various Maryland based transportation organizations, is cautiously optimistic that TCI could be a useful tool to reduce transportation emissions, create additional funding sources for transit investment and reduce the impacts on under-served communities.  The strong showing of community activists at the workshop will hopefully help to ensure that environmentalists will work closely together with equity activists to reconcile potentially conflicting goals.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

For an explanation how the California cap and trade system works see here
For a Georgetown paper about how TCI could work see here
For a related blog post on Community Architect about transportation pollution here

Cap in trade in the Georgetown paper is explained this way:

Under this kind of program, an implementing state would issue allowances equal to the emissions budget or “cap.” Allowances are compliance instruments that regulated entities are required to hold for a given quantity of pollution that is emitted within the compliance period; for example, one allowance for one ton of carbon dioxide. If at the end of a compliance period a regulated entity does not have sufficient allowances to cover its emissions, it is out of compliance and subject to a penalty or other sanction. Emissions from the regulated sector are therefore “capped” at the quantity of allowances issued by the state. Generally, the cap declines over time, reflecting the policy objective to reduce emissions from covered sources.7
In a cap-and-invest program, most or all of the allowances are distributed through sale at periodic auctions. Regulated entities may purchase the allowances at auction and they can buy, sell, or otherwise transfer allowances directly with other market participants. The price of the allowances is not fixed—rather the quantity of allowable emissions is set by the program, and the market determines the price. Some allowances may also be freely distributed by the state to regulated entities or other parties.
Since the emission budget (i.e., the quantity of allowances) is typically set at a level of emissions below what would otherwise occur under “business as usual,” a cap-and-invest program is expected to promote changes in behavior by regulated entities or consumers to reduce emissions. Some companies producing or supplying transportation fuels will find it cheaper to bring less carbon-intensive fuels to market than to purchase additional allowances. Investments of auction proceeds into emission reducing policies—for example electric vehicle incentives, additional transit service, multi-modal freight infrastructure, ridesharing, and pedestrian and biking infrastructure—will also reduce demand for fossil transportation fuels by promoting less carbon-intensive transportation options, thus mitigating costs for consumers and providing other benefits for residents. A price on emissions can also influence consumer behavior, reducing demand for fossil transportation fuels.
Cap-and-invest programs usually also include mechanisms to provide additional compliance flexibility to regulated entities, mitigate costs, and help ensure a stable and well-functioning allowance market. These can include:
 options to bank allowances for compliance in future years;
 cost-containment mechanisms that introduce additional allowances into the market when allowance prices reach a certain threshold;
 allowance price ceilings or price floors;
 offset credit mechanisms, which allow certified emission reducing projects in other, uncapped sectors to generate credits that can be used for compliance; and
 linking with similar programs in other regions or sectors, thereby allowing the most cost-effective emissions reducing actions to take place first across sectors or regions.
Cap-and-invest programs may also include provisions to address potential competitiveness and equity issues. This can include distributing allowances or investing auction proceeds in targeted ways, or choosing which sources of emissions are covered under the cap.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Has Artscape run its course?

In a time when the Baltimore Symphony is in peril, the Orioles suffer from anemic attendance and the icon of Baltimore's rebirth, HarborPlace, is ailing, any notion to do away with another iconic fixture  such as Artscape is sure to hit a raw nerve. A Facebook posting suggesting such a thing got a lot of reaction, both ways.
Octopus on Charles Street. "But that's not art",
artist Mina Cheon on Facebook
Dennis Visco Artscape is awesome! It's almost impossible to select one thing over another.Great free music on 3 separate stages! Andy BOP Friday night on the Hopkins Stage! Reggae Sunday afternoon on the stage near the Meyerhoff and the Vocalist Saturday afternoon on the Morgan State stage was mind blowing. Wonderful dance ensemble in the air conditioned Lyric theater on Saturday,and I enjoyed the animation films in the air conditioned PARKWAY theater which first opened it's doors in 1915. All this being totally FREE.I'm not even mentioning the man and woman walking around on stilts which was pure fun on a hot summer day.And all of this FREE and timed perfectly with celebration of Man's first walk on the moon. THANK YOU CHARM CITY.
Yet, few would dispute that Artscape  2017, 18 or 19, still billed as the largest arts festival in the country, couldn't quite muster the energy, participation and attendance of the years when nearly half a million people were reported to have roamed the streets and the round in front of the stage at Mount Royal station was so crowded that one couldn't find a spot to watch Aretha Franklin or Ray Charles and when every creative soul in Baltimore felt an obligation to present a sculpture or object somewhere at the festival.
Dan Howard Very disappointing this year.
Ferris Wheel in front of the shuttered Meyerhoff
A lot has changed since 1982 when Artscape was inaugurated as a successor of the once wildly successful City Fair. (1970-1991). On occasion of the 30th birthday in 2011 Baltimore Magazine wrote this:
It's too hot, too crowded, the parking is awful, but still we go every year. Because each time we're tempted to skip Artscape, we remember something special that happened at the last one, and we find ourselves heading down to Mount Royal Avenue once again.
Maybe it was that time we were standing in the middle of the street by the Fox Building, so transfixed by a young rock-and-roll band that we forgot all about leaving early to beat the traffic. Maybe we wandered into the Mount Royal Station Building just to get out of the heat and into the air conditioning, but we were so taken by the paintings that we started attending gallery openings in the fall. Maybe we were so tickled by the Art Car Parade that we went out and bought a glue gun and started attaching toys to that old car we were going to trade in for $100. Maybe we bumped into an old Baltimore friend in the crowd, someone we hadn't seen in years, and, after an exchange of phone numbers, a friendship was rekindled. (Baltimore Magazine)
Most still holds true in 2019, even if  the festival no longer extended north on Mount Royal beyond the light rail tracks, the "Art Cars" have been eliminated, the Meyerhoff is shuttered due to a lock-out and light rail didn't run due to a sinkhole on Howard Street at Pratt Street and typical MICA venues  usually open to the public during Artscape such as the Brown Center, Fox Building, Bunting Building, Main Building and the Fred Lazarus IV Center were closed, in part due to renovations. The "big acts" at the main stage have become deliberately less glamorous. The Baltimore Brew also cited a total loss of classical music, including the loss of the popular Lyric opera performances. (The contribution was allegedly rejected by organizers).
Hand to Hand performance exhibition (photo Dennis Visco)

As always, the weekend in July is one of the hottest  of the year (unless a cold front brings incessant rain as in 2018 when the festival closed early due to lack of attendance) and as always, diligent search would find interesting items, even actual art. But for the most part, food and generic booths that could line any festival hawking all kinds of services and institutions dominate and more and more people wonder, if Artscape is really still the authentic Baltimore even it promises to be, even though many regulars and those who put a lot of work into the festival will immediately jump to its defense.
Conrad Jay Bladey it needs to go entirely-a waste-they have mistreated artists for decades (Bladey used to participate in ArtcCars)
A lot has changed since Artscape was conceived. Baltimore has established four Arts and Entertainment districts, the latest this year, the Pennsylvania Avenue A&E district celebrating African American arts and culture. The Station North, the Highlandtown  and the more recent Bromo A&E districts have their own events and individual identity. Only Station North overlaps in part with the Artscape grounds. The events on the Y-Not-Lot across North Avenue ("Ratscape") are more like an alternative Artscape than an adjunct. The Station North district itself lost its executive director in January of this year and its most iconic venue, the Wind-Up Space closed, but re-opened under a new manager as "Rituals".  Baltimore's Office of Promotion & the Arts (BOPA) created Light City and this year, for the first time, merged it with the Book Festival.  (A full list of BOPA events can be found here). BOPA is under new leadership under Donna Drew Sawyer, who replaced Bill Gilmore as executive director.
Peter Franchot, Comptroller. #DidYouKnow that the nonprofit arts & culture industry generates $961.6 million in annual economic activity in Maryland? AND it leverages $450.2 million in event-related spending? Art (and Artscape!) is at the very heart of our economy.
Charles Street North Stage Saturday night folk music
With Baltimore's population still in decline, suburbanites scared to come to the City thanks to soaring crime rates and transportation and almost ongoing mess thanks to sinkholes, signal failures and a still ailing public transportation system with a upkeep deficit of over $2 billion, even the most ardent Baltimore supporter  should be allowed to ask if the City can sustain the full schedule of events and still do each one in optimal form. Such a question is not a sacrilege and by no means an attempt to discredit the importance of the arts in Baltimore. Quite the opposite. The questions is, as quirky as Baltimore is, don't the arts deserve better? Wouldn't an arts festival which rotates through the  the four arts districts to highlight each in its unique character be more appropriate? Wouldn't it makes sense to focus the creative energy on making Light City really so that it can not only compete but also be different from the light installations of similar light festivals around the globe?

Finally the weather. The reason why Artscape takes place during the hottest days of summer has to do with the availability of venues such as the Lyric or various MICA facilities, the heat is a real detractor which will only become worse with rising average temperatures, no matter how many cold drink stands, cooling tents and air conditioned venues along the route. In code red air quality incessantly idling diesel trucks blocking the access routes against terrorists and the traffic of those who run back and froth in those stinky golf carts don't help either, even when the now available electric scooters were wildly popular as a means to get to the event or (illegally) cruise around in it. Baltimore's summers were always hot and steamy, but fewer and fewer people are willing to head outdoors and brace near 100F temperatures or want to staff the booths and stands.
A new lens for Artscape? (Artscape 2017)
Jessica Damen Why can’t it be the weekend after Labor Day? I didn’t go this year because of the heat. 
Greg Stanley Switch to fall. Too hot for any human being
Maureen Anne Fitzpatrick A friend commented, “If this is the hottest weekend of the year, it must be Artscape!” How do the planners not yet know about climate change? How do the planners not yet know about climate change?
 No doubt, BOPA will once again declare Artscape a success, promotion  being part of its mission and DNA. But cooler heads should consider what needs to be done to stem the slow hemorraghing that seems to have befallen the event.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA