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The Future of Baltimore's Harborplace

Business & Developmentby Fern Shen7:50 pmFeb 26, 20240

City Council advances bills to pave the way for towers at Harborplace

With no debate and no remarks to explain their votes, lawmakers move Baltimore’s historic waterfront one step closer to an apartment-centric future

Above: In October, the public learned that the plan for Harborplace included 203 Light Street, two linked apartment towers, and two additional commercial and office structures along Pratt Street. (MCB Real Estate)

Without debate and to the surprise of no one, the Baltimore City Council gave preliminary approval tonight to three bills enabling developer P. David Bramble to build apartment towers at Baltimore’s tourist waterfront, Harborplace.

Opposed by many as a giveaway that would privatize a public park but defended by Mayor Brandon Scott as a way to energize downtown, the legislation is scheduled to come back to the Council for final approval next week.

All of the Council members present tonight, with the exception of the 3rd District’s Ryan Dorsey, cast votes in favor of the three bills introduced by Councilman Eric Costello and Council President Nick Mosby.

Each passed 13-1, with Councilman Antonio Glover absent.

In contrast to passionate testimony by residents during a lengthy committee hearing earlier this month, tonight’s vote was completed in less than three minutes with no discussion.

At the Council luncheon, where bills are typically reviewed, no lawmaker had anything to say about the legislation.

“We have a pretty light agenda today,” Mosby remarked at the noontime gathering in the Curran Room.

No Height Limit

The bills advanced tonight would change the city’s zoning law, its urban renewal plan and the City Charter.

They would remove the current 50-foot height restriction and allow parking garages and residential development at the corner of Pratt and Light streets.

Bramble’s MCB Real Estate has proposed two apartment towers on the current park land.

The buildings, adding more than 900 residential units by the waterfront, would replace two low-rise Harborplace tourist pavilions opened in 1970.

Schematics released by MCB show a total of four buildings on the site, including a connected 25-story and 32-story residential tower, a mid-height office building and a soaring bird-like commercial structure.

One of the bills would place the height and density changes before voters in the form of a charter amendment on the November 2024 ballot.

Bramble says the apartments are needed to generate revenue for an overhaul of the long-troubled waterfront space.

Critics contend that his plan, which would require about $400 million in public funding for roadway, promenade and related improvements, would block waterfront views and create an exclusive enclave for the wealthy.

They have vowed to get an alternative charter amendment before voters on the November ballot.

Previous Brew Coverage 

Critics denounce Harborplace bills as a “blank check” giveaway to the developer (2/14/24)

Behind the “bold vision” of Harborplace, a shift from people’s park to private development (11/4/23)

The Future of Baltimore’s Harborplace (full coverage)

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