Friday, April 7, 2017

Lombard Street without Holocaust Memorial?

Most people would agree that Lombard Street isn't exactly what one would call an exciting urban street no matter that it is only one block away from the waterfront. It is actually curving like in a suburban subdivision because it follows Baltimore's historic shoreline. To be attractive it has too many traffic lanes, sidewalks that are too narrow, there are far too many dull looking parking garages, practically no functional retail and no attractions except the Holocaust memorial.
Lombard Street: Six lanes of  tristesse

The 1977 pseudo modern vacant hulk of what once was the downtown Baltimore Community College signature building certainly doesn't lift the mood, and, by its nature, the 1980 Baltimore Holocaust Memorial plaza doesn't either, even after a 1997 makeover intended to make it more accessible and less grim.

Even though the BCCC site is located right in downtown Baltimore and close to the Inner Harbor and a subway stop, it has been languishing for years. The Cordish Company, originally interested in 2012 to redevelop the parcel, withdrew because it didn't want to be responsible for relocating the Holcaust Memorial as a condition to get access to both parts of the site.
BCCC site with Holocaust Memorial site on the left

Now the Baltimore Jewish Council has relinquished this requirement and agreed that the Holocaust site could be developed.
Baltimore City Community College (“BCCC” or “the College”) desires to enter into an agreement with a world class real estate development firm or team “Development Team”) toredevelop its Inner Harbor Campus site, located at 600 E. Lombard Street, Baltimore, Maryland
A new request for proposals doesn't stipulate any conditions for the inclusion of the Memorial Site in a new development proposal.
One would think this second RFP should attract investors. Market Place has successfully created a draw north towards Baltimore Street from which energy should be able to radiate to the BCCC site. One parcel won't make a
Holocaust Memorial
renaissance of Lombard Street, though. Time to investigate how Lombard Street could become more than the traffic sewer it currently is.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Baltimore SUN 1997 about the Holocaust Memorial make-over

Jewish Council would move the Holocaust Memorial to aid redevelopment (SUN 2013)

The original 1980 Holocaust Memorial explained:

On each side of the walkway triangle are 1940 vintage railroad tracks symbolizing the railway system that transported millions of Holocaust victims to the concentration camps. Ornamental grasses are planted between the tracks to represent an abandoned rail yard.

Lamp posts representative of rail stations in the 1940s line the plaza. At the end of the plaza are two massive, cantilevered concrete blocks, each 80 feet long and 19 feet high that symbolize railway boxcars. There are steel wedges, at each end, that imply locomotive cowcatchers. The metal grates, in the center, represent the boxcar sides.
Then SUN architectural critic Ed Gunts about the 1997 memorial make-over:
In their quest to make it more friendly and accessible, however, they have also reduced it to an architectural sound bite -- and in so doing made it that much easier to dismiss. Ed Gunts

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