Broadway Square as a Family Destination: Are Fountains the Key?

Written by on November 14, 2012 in Featured, Neighborhood News - No comments

Autumn morning in Broadway Square. Photo by Erik Zygmont

A water feature, more trees, and sloping rather than stepped access are among the changes that Fell’s Point’ Broadway Square may see by the summer of 2014.

The last of the public input sessions on the project was held last week, and a final review with the city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation was set for Tuesday, after press time.

The project’s construction phase will start with a complete infrastructure upgrade—the square will be ripped up to install new water, wastewater, and electrical systems.

Heidi Thomas of Mahan Rykiel, the landscape architecture and urban design firm tapped for the design of the project, said that a lot of the granite curbing and brick of the present square will be salvaged for use in the new square.

It is not logistically feasible to save the trees that are currently planted in the square and in fair condition, Thomas said, as they would have to be relocated and stored for the duration of the construction phase.

Under the current proposed plan, the southern end of the square would have an additional kiosk on the western side, instead of just the one kiosk that is currently there. Darrell Doan of the Baltimore Development Corporation said that the second kiosk would, preferably, house an information center.

Dividing the southern end of the square from the middle portion would be the water feature—several jets flush with ground level that shoot water 12-18 inches in the air. When the jets are turned off, Thomas said, the area would be virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the surface.

“The focal point of this plaza is intended to be this water feature,” she said, “something that provides movement and soft white noise and activity in the plaza.”

Other changes to the plaza include the trees—20 are planned to replace the 15 willow oaks and one Chinese elm that stand on the square now.

Various planters will hold more greenery.

“We really wanted to strengthen the edges with planting, and get more green in this space,” said Thomas, noting that the proposal includes a 2,000-square-foot increase in green space over the present square.

She acknowledged that Broadway Square must continue to be suitable for its traditional uses—housing booths during the Fell’s Point Farmers Market, flea market, and Fun Fest. A lawn panel was part of the first proposal, but was removed upon public input.

Charles Norton, a 31-year resident of Fell’s Point, said that it looked like the plans for a second kiosk were “more to visually balance the square from side to side than to have a real use.” He added that he didn’t like the idea of the second kiosk being an information booth, as there is an existing information center, the Fell’s Point Visitor Center on Thames Street, run by the Preservation Society.

Courtney Capute of Shakespeare St. commented that water features are often part of “family-centric areas,” while Fell’s Point has a large nightlife component. She suggested using the funds for the water feature—which could be a bathing area for the homeless—to build up the plans for trees and raised beds.

“We are cognizant of the loitering, drunkenness, urination, and defecation,” said Doan.

“Our idea is to help change the perception of this space,” put in Thomas.

Kraft said that the idea worked for Dypski Park behind Du Burns Arena in Canton.

“The use of that facility all day long brought that park alive,” he said. “It could bring this square to life in a way that hasn’t been seen in a long, long time.

Unfortunately, Kraft added, the city has since closed Dypski Park, and “the homeless took it back over.”

by Erik Zygmont

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