Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Move over Paris Plages, here comes Sandlot!

Ever since Paris adorned the shores of the Seine with beaches (plages) during the summer month, cities around the world have come up with their own urban sandbox. Baltimore's next hit for hipsters will be a sandbox of a special kind, placed on HarborPoint's "100% corner" with full view of the Inner Harbor and the downtown skyline as a backdrop.
Baltimore's beach: Imagine bikinis, speedos and deckchairs

What makes Sandlot super-cool is not so much its movie reference but that it is all pop-up, i.e. temporary, made from the architecture modules de jour: Shipping containers, a Jetstream trailer, and wooden shipping pallets. The menu of hipness is topped off by starchef Spike Gjerde,  the same who runs Parts and Labor and Woodberry Kitchen and who sees it as his mission to feed Baltimore quality food. He and Corey Polyoka, founded Foodshed, a family of restaurants which will also manage the beachfront eatery. Baltimore's other sandlot, Rash Field, popular with beach volley ball enthusiasts will have stiff competition.

HarborPoint, you will recall, sits on what used to be a mega polluted industrial lot, the Allied
Baltimore Sandlot: Boxed trees
Site, inaccessible to all but the plant workers acquiring lung ailments there. When the plant came down the Fells Point community rallied around the idea to convert the entire 26 acres peninsula into a park after a clean up had achieved EPA's seal of approval.
Bocce courts

An airstream trailer and shipping containers will house
the eating facilities
 Alas, it turned out one can cap off a chromium lot and surround it with slurry walls and one can build on it. So, eventually happened what nobody really believed in 1992, when the first planned unit development plan (PUD) was approved for the peninsula  and the site was slated to become Baltimore's latest downtown extension.
In the background the Morgan Stanely building (off the
remediation cap) and the new Point Street apartment building
under construction on the cap.

The current edge of the deck atop the capped pensinsula. The deck
acts as a parking garage and accommodates also the utilities.
In the background the Point Street apartment tower
The peninsula is now open to the public with the Exelon tower being the first active building on the cap itself with retail and a restaurant at the base. Through all the years since the first plans the southwest corner, the 100% corner, was set aside as a 4.5 acre open space or, alternatively, for a signature building akin to the Sidney's Opera. On three sides the peninsula is made public for the mandatory waterfront promenade for which the peninsula is an important link.

The corner was briefly considered for the replacement of the Mechanic Theater and as a Lacrosse Museum. The latest masterplans show the site simply as a park that would be completed when the adjoining edge buildings would be developed. This provides the window for the pop-up park, alias the Sand Lot, a joint project of Beatty Development and Gjerde's Foodshed. Beatty Development expects the temporary use to be around for about 4-5 years when the final park will be constructed as part of the final phase of development. The next building on HarborPoint will be the Wills Wharf with construction expected to begin late this year according to Chris Seiler, manager of communications at Beatty Development.

The Sandlot design comes from Beatty Harvey Coco (BHC) Architects and Mahan Rykiel; BHC was most recently in the news as the architect of record for Sagamore's  new Pendry Hotel on the nearby Recreation Pier in Fells Point and has also designed the Four Seasons Tower, the Exelon Tower and the Point Street apartments under construction. The firm has its Baltimore office on HarborPoint. Mahan Rykiel is also designing the new Rash Field.

The HarborPoint site needs to be "discovered" by the public which has to take ownership to make retail and restaurants there successful.

Baltimore plages, aka Sandlot on a location that Bill Struever used to call the best "on the entire eastern seaboard" will be a good step to do this. Struever was part of the original development team.

Unfortunately, when Sandlot opens next weekend it will be totally cut off from Harbor East because of construction of the new bridge which will provide future access as an extension of Central Avenue. This activity currently closes Lancaster Street not only for cars but also pedestrians because the area on Lancaster Street not only receives the abutment of the bridge but will also be elevated to avoid flooding.

As a result, anybody walking on the Promenade has to do a lengthy detour first, heading north to Aliceanna Street to then access the peninsula and its temporary promenade from Caroline Street. It would be nice if a temporary pedestrian bridge could create a direct connection from Lancaster Street.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

BBJ Sandlot article
Fishbowl article about Sandlot
Final touches on another structure made from wood pallets 

Sand, grass and the temporary promenade 

A promenade bench found already the first sunbather 

In the background the yellow shipping containers and a
food terrace made from pallets

the terrace is even accessible via a pallet ramp

Who doesn't like the sand can lounge on pallets.

The completed and occupied Exelon Tower

Paris Plages

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