What’s in Store, Baltimore?

Central Baltimore (not to be confused with Downtown Baltimore), is an area at the geographic center of the city whose high residential and commercial vacancy, population loss, and relatively high crime rate have befuddled boosters and planners for decades. Central Baltimore is a stone\’s throw from Penn Station, I-83, and the tony Mt. Vernon Cultural District, is surrounded by four universities and a half-dozen artist-run live / work spaces, has a decent housing stock, mixed-use zoning, and strong community-based organizations, and yet the area is more or less on life support. That Central Baltimore should be a safer, more attractive, and more populated place has occurred to enough people by now that it has become something of a cause celebre, the subject of dozens of plans, visions, and development proposals authored by a variety of constituents. Since the 1960s, the area has been the subject of federal urban renewal, model cities, and enterprise zone programs, a state-initiated plan to brand the area as \”a destination location with an array of arts venues, restaurants and arts themed events led by a diverse creative class,\” a city-sponsored \”vision\” plan, at least three campus expansion plans, ruthless property speculation and warehousing, and a pioneering homesteading initiative. In the last two years alone, Central Baltimore has been the subject of a neighborhood stabilization grant, a reverse redlining suit, and a few dozen ambitious development proposals, including one of the country\’s first HUD-financed affordable housing loft for artists. Central Baltimore is thus a window into the complex, contentious, and confounding world of city making. For this studio, students will examine Central Baltimore\’s history, develop an understanding of its contemporary dynamics, perform an analysis of its many constituents and stakeholders, and ultimately propose an intervention for a constituent or stakeholder of the student\’s choosing. Students will have an opportunity to work with community-based organizations, CDCs, preservationist groups (architectural and natural), city agencies like The Department of City Planning or the Baltimore Development Corporation, umbrella groups like the Central Baltimore Partnership, one of the area\’s colleges, individual property developers, or some other constituent or stakeholder identified by the student. As this is an interdisciplinary studio that is meant to appeal to all departments, interventions are expected to be very diverse, and, depending on the constituent or stakeholder, could include master plans, vision plans, streetscaping and public space plans, architecture, or public art. The goal of the studio is to teach students to mobilize design visions in the complex, contentious, and confounding world of the contemporary American city.