Construction on proposed improvements to Central Ave., from Baltimore St. south to the Harbor Point development, would begin next summer if the proposal comes to fruition.
The proposal also includes a connector bridge, which would basically extend from the present southern end of Central Ave. and cross the water onto the Harbor Point peninsula, future home of the 27.3-acre mixed use development of Harbor Point.
A 227,000 square-foot Morgan Stanley building is currently located at Harbor Point’s southeast corner, and the next step in the development is a facility for energy producer Exelon, which purchased Baltimore’s Constellation Energy in March of this year, according to Jonathan Flesher of Harbor East Development, the group behind Harbor Point.
According to the Baltimore City Department of Transportation, the Central Ave. portion of the proposal would address several current deficiencies. At a public meeting last week, the DOT pointed to bad pavement, sidewalk and drainage conditions as one problem with Central Ave. in its current state, as well as a lack of bike lanes, trees, and other landscaping features. Lighting also needs to be improved, and the sidewalks are not currently compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to DOT.
The proposal would reconstruct the roadway and sidewalks, mining space for a five-foot bike lane by cutting the median from 20 feet to 10 feet across.
Like the present road, the new Central Ave. would be a four-lane road, with two lanes for each direction of travel.
The other major change would be to the sidewalk, which would have a minimum of 5 feet of walking space, with another 5 feet for trees, benches, and other landscaping features.
“We’re going to make greening a priority,” said Michael Wilmore, an engineer with Baltimore DOT.
“If it comes to fruition, I’ll be happy,” commented Little Italy resident Gia Blattermann. “The only wish I would have is that they do it now and get it over with…Little Italy welcomes it, believe me.”
The total bill for the project is $33 million, with $27 million coming from federal monies, according to DOT, including “available money from other city projects.”
The other $6 million, coming from the city itself, would pay for the connector bridge to Harbor Point. According to Flesher, the plan to build the connector bridge came soon after Exelon announced intentions to set up in Harbor Point, which has few access points.
“In order for us to build another building, the DOT told us we need another way out [of Harbor Point],” said Flesher.
He said that bonds based on the increased tax revenue the city expects to earn from the completed Harbor Point development will be issued for the construction of the bridge—a funding device known as tax-increment financing.
Like Central Ave., the connector bridge would have four vehicular travel lanes and two bike lanes, and a sidewalk.
According to Flesher, Harbor Point will eventually become something like Harbor East.
“Today there is residence, retail, restaurants, hotels, and businesses there,” he said.
Residents have through Oct. 18 to make their opinions on the project known to the city. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Erik Zygmont