The group that wants to renovate Fell’s Point’s Recreation Pier into a “world-class, boutique, luxury hotel,” have added another community group’s support behind their plans, which would widen and improve the sidewalk on the water side of Thames St., from Ann St. to Broadway, rather than extend the waterfront Promenade out around the pier.
Last Wednesday, members of the Fell’s Point Residents Association voted strongly to support the proposal put forward by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s development firm, Sagamore Development Company.
Association member Lew Diuguid said that the body voted to support the overall proposal, and explicitly expressed support for the company’s plan to forgo the Promenade. He said the association also stipulated that the city should not see this as a precedent, but should continue to enforce its development policy of a continuous Promenade from Canton to Federal Hill, except in this instance.
During the meeting, both Diuguid and his wife Kay Hogan noted that, historically, the 100-year-old building did not have a promenade around it.
“On its face, it would seem to me that to put a promenade around the building would destroy its historical background, because there never was a promenade around it,” Diuguid said.
Todd Harvey, lead architect for the project, said that the National Park Service and the Maryland Historical Trust would likely argue against a promenade around the Rec Pier as well.
“We’re not sure we’d even be allowed to widen that pier, even if we were physically able to do it or it was feasible to do it,” he added.
“We’re talking years of modification and delay before we even start planning,” commented Steve Siegel of Sagamore Development.
First District City Councilman Jim Kraft, who attended the meeting, said that the best chance of getting the city to grant a variance on the Promenade requirement was to clearly show community support for the measure.
“The administration made it clear to me, when it was mentioned, that they wanted the Promenade around the Rec Pier,” Kraft said.
He added, however, that the Promenade rule is “all based on the insistence of the community,” that came out of charrettes and meetings held since 1999 to tackle the future of the Rec Pier as it sat unused and deteriorating after the end of its run as a set for “Homicide: Life on the Street.”
So, Kraft said, the community groups in the area need to notify the city that they support the project and explicitly support a compromise on the Promenade in this case.
With that support, he added, “I will go back to the mayor and say, ‘I think you need to put the Promenade issue to bed.”
“I don’t know if that’s going to turn it, but it’s going to turn it as far as we’re concerned,” the councilman said. “The [Promenade] requirement started in the community anyway.”
The Sagamore Development Company now has the support of two community organizations—Fell’s Point Main Street and the Fell’s Point Residents Association—for its proposal. The developers sought the support of a third, the Fell’s Point Community Organization, last night, after press time.
Mike Maraziti, president of Fell’s Point Main Street, urged the community to support the proposal.
“That’s the last piece of this entire neighborhood that needs to be worked on,” he said. “It’s going to look a lot better than people sleeping on those steps and rodents running around.”
by Erik Zygmont