Great Place Wednesday: Inner Harbor; Baltimore, MD

America’s been extraordinarily adept at completely ignoring its waterfronts. Most cities in America with a waterfront have turned that waterfront into an entirely industrial wasteland, with little public use, and even less quality spaces.  New York City has only recently discovered its waterfront, and has invested millions in developing more public space along the Hudson and East Rivers, as well as Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan.  San Francisco has developed a small portion of its waterfront into a place fit for human habitation, but most west coast cities have remarkably hostile waterfront areas.  Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was transformed not too long ago from old warehouses and industrial land into the vibrant community gathering place it is today.  The Inner Harbor was described by the Urban Land Institute in 2009 as “the model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment around the World.”

Wide, bricked sidewalks flank the water, connecting the spaces with a single, unifying material.

A mixture of retail, office, housing, and recreational uses bring in all kinds of people, for a variety of reasons.

Historic ships bring in tourists, and frame the Inner Harbor in a historical context.

Retail buildings are open and permeable, encouraging users to use the public space around them.

New buildings, such as this museum, bring in architectural interest and contemporary style to the Harbor.

Large public plazas encourage impromptu gatherings and entertainment.