Dutch firm West 8 has beat out James Corner Field Operations and Hargreaves Jones for the chance to create an 11-mile-long stretch of parkland in South Baltimore. The winning proposal from the studio’s New York office was chosen as part of the Middle Branch Waterfront Revitalization Competition, a city-backed plan to reengage locals with an underutilized section of the Patapsco River shoreline.
Located east of Westport and south of Port Covington across the river, the waterfront spanning from the existing Middle Branch Park will be expanded in the surrounding bay into a landscaped linear strip for recreational activities and observing wildlife. West 8 will partner with local teams from Mahan Rykiel and Moffat & Nichol on the multi-phase project, and figure out the best strategies to build a new green ring around the waterfront filled with piers, boardwalks, and other structures for performances and group gatherings.
Per the proposal, future phases will include converting the 103-year-old, Beaux Arts-style Hanover Street Bridge, which connects Middle Branch to Port Covington, into parkland as well. A new car-centric bridge will be built stretching from the planned Under Armour campus to Brooklyn, instead of Cherry Hill where Middle Branch Park is located. An artificial island will be built underneath it in the middle of the bay.
SouthBmore.com reported that in order to create this large ring of land, West 8 will redistribute dredge from a port nearby and place it further up the bay where it will eventually help form marshlands and other wetland ecologies. This move, according to Brad Rogers, executive director of the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, will help build an attractive waterfront for the South Baltimore community—one that could boost its economy like the other built-out improvements at Inner Harbor and Fells Point.
West 8 also aims to build a trail system that loops from Middle Branch Park to Westport Meadows and across Ridgeley’s Cove. A decrepit bridge there could possibly be made into a pedestrian-only thoroughfare as well, providing access to Swan Park in Port Covington.
For further context, the entire site sits south of M&T Bank Stadium and is close to the core of downtown Baltimore. A masterplan to revamp the Middle Branch area has been in the works since 2007, and the competition to redesign the waterfront started last summer, under the helm of the city-supported Parks and People Foundation.