Wednesday, April 30, 2008

1964 Catonsville Redevelopment Plan

The images that you are about to see below are scans of an old 1964 Catonsville Redevelopment and Rehabilitation Commission Plan for a vision of Catonsville.

Location Map of Catonsville Urban Renewal Area

Existing Land Use Map

Proposed Land Use Map

Proposed Shopping District along Frederick Road

Elevation view of Downtown Catonsville

Proposed view of a redeveloped Frederick Road

View of the proposed shopping plaza

Proposed views of the shopping plaza and Frederick Road

Proposed view of Downtown Catonsville

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Baltimore Green Week - April 28th thru May 2nd

Baltimore Green Week is a weeklong program comprising of community events, forums, lectures and hands-on activities throughout Baltimore city. Our mission is to further the voice of organizations that promote a healthy living environment, and in turn healthy city and people.

For more information go to Greenweek Activities at Morgan State University on May 1st. Opportunities for the Green Workforce from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pmShowcases organizations providing green job training and highlight which businesses have employment opportunities.

Hosted by Civic Works, Parks and People, the Morgan State University Career Development Center, and the Morgan State University Institute of Architecture and Planning.Van Jones 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. Hear one of today's leading voices in helping to create jobs for low income and inner city communities through the Green Industrial Revolution. Van Jones is the founder of the Ella Baker Foundation, which focuses on environmental justice and jobs, and his new Green For All campaign

Both events are at Morgan State University - 5200 Perring Parkway, Baltimore, MD 21239. Schaeffer Building, Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. School of Engineering (north end of campus) in the Main Auditorium / Room 241. Free parking is available at the north end of the School of Engineering parking lot

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Make A Decision

A great interview with Will Smith about making a choice and making a decision. I decided to post this because in my profession of City Planning, I am confronted with making decisions on a daily basis.

Sometimes these decisions are tough, we are talking about planning people's livelihoods and as planners we can get bogged down in making a decision. We want to build consensus, adhere to our policies, make new precedents, match existing patterns and take in all these factors that make us contradict and second guess our choices. But sometimes we just have to make the decision with the best information that we have at that time.

That's why this interview really resonates with me. "Just Decide! What is going to be, who you're going to be, how you're going to do it..." To me this applies, to city planners, communities, everyone involved in a community. Too many times, communities only see what they do not want to be and never decide on what they do want to be. If only everyone could take this philosophy our communities would be much better places to live in.

Another point that Will made that resonated with me is that by making a decision, we have the power to control our fate instead of feeling like there are other powers that are always affecting how you, feel, think and respond.

I read a great article once in undergrad about processes versus objects. Basically the article stated that everything we do in our community is a process and not an object that can only be moved slowly. Processes can change by altering outcomes, objects are things that are blocking movement. So an issue like failing schools, is a process, blight, is a process, unemployment is a process. If we change the process of that are bringing ill conditions into a community, we can change the outcomes of those people living in that community.

But in order to change that process we have to view ill social conditions as objects and view them as processes that can change if we choose to change the formula of the equation that produces bad outcomes. But in order to do that we have to DECIDE what we want to be. Once we know the outcome, we can make the equation be whatever we want it to be to produce the results we want. "Two plus two is whatever I wanted to be" is what Will stated in the interview.

And we get to those outcomes by making a choice and making a decision, to quote again, "Just Decide! What is going to be, who you're going to be, how you're going to do it..."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Baltimore Green Map

There is a new site showing an interactive map which details all of the Green hot spots in Baltimore City.

Baltimore Green Map is the central clearinghouse to connect Baltimore residents with natural, cultural and sustainability resources and to promote green tourism opportunities for visitors to the city. We engage Baltimore with the international green mapping movement, share accomplishments, increase use of existing resources, and stimulate replication of successful greening strategies. We celebrate Baltimore’s opportunities for choosing daily to make sustainability a lifestyle choice.

This is a very informative site and I encourage all Baltimoreans to check out the site and get involved in providing a more sustainable environment for our city and region.

Check out their upcoming event:
Green Mapmaking Workshop and one-day exhibition of Green Maps from all over the world*
Saturday, May 3 from 2 to 4 p.m.
The Cork Gallery 4 North (Buzzer #9)
302 E. Federal St
Baltimore, MD 21202

RSVP to with "workshop" in subject line

Murals to come to Baltimore City

Baltimore City will add a murals program as a clean-up initiative to help beautify the city. This could be a potentially great idea as neighboring cities such as Philadelphia have received national acclaim for their mural anti-graffiti programs as detailed in one of this blog's first post.

Hopefully their will be more public art in the city that will truly showcase the culture of it's residents. Here's an excerpt from the Baltimore Sun:

"Promising to transform drab, concrete walls into colorful displays of public art, Baltimore officials said yesterday that the city will commission 20 murals this summer -- more than double the number painted in past years."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Scenes around town - Public Art in Baltimore

Male/Female at Penn Station. Easily the most controversial public art piece in the city. While most people are indifferent to the sculpture, most art critics loathe the piece.

The Visionary Arts Museum. Probably one of the most eclectic museums I have ever been too. This sculpture outside of the museum is just the tip of the iceberg of way more striking and bizarre pieces inside the museum.

Sculpture in Harbor East. This is the center piece of the new emerging waterfront neighborhood and destination Harbor East.

Miracle on 34 Street. I'm sure every city has that one neighborhood that overdoes it during X-Mas time and becomes a public spectacle. What this is that block in our fair city of Baltimore. (Shot taken before massive BG&E energy hikes)

USS Torsk Museum. A real WWII warship docked right outside the National Aquarium.

Our famous art cars. There are like a dozen of these cars around the city.

And what would Baltimore be without honoring our bird, the Oriole. Pronounced oh-REE-oles by the locales in Balamer, Merlin.

...and of course the Crab...those delicious and now horribly over-priced, delicious crabs.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

How the Candidates stack up on Public Transit

Public Transit is one of the most important pieces of infastructure for sustaining a city and it is also one of the most expencies peices of infastrucutre as well. While in the last 40 years, Federal and state governments have spent more money on highway construction than on public tranist, it is important to note that all of American cities were developed and grew from public transit lines. With out public transit today, our best cities such as New York, Chicago and Sna Francisco would not be able to sustain themselves.

With a piece of infreastucture so vital to the daily lives to the city dwellers of this country, coast to coast, what are the Democratic candidates saying about the need to improve public transit. Well, according the the Philly Daily News...not that much.

From the Philadelphia Daily News:

"..."Transportation, which affects virtually everyone in the country, is barely on the radar of any of the candidates," said Samuel I. Schwartz, of Sam Schwartz PLLC, a transportation-planning firm."

Here's how Obama and Clinton plan to address the nation's transportation needs:

Barack Obama

Will create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to receive $6 billion annually to finance transportation projects around the country.

LOCAL TRANSIT: Will double the Jobs Access and Reverse Commute program, which provides federal money to help low-income people get to work. Will increase resources for local public transportation, but doesn't provide a dollar amount.

AMTRAK AND HIGH-SPEED RAIL: Will continue to fight for more funding. Supported a bill to provide $11 billion over six years. Supports development of high-speed freight and passenger rail, but does not indicate how much money he would provide.

AIR AND SEA: Wants to modernize air-traffic-control system to reduce delays. Will develop an accurate terrorist watch list to improve safety of air travel.

Hillary Clinton

INFRASTRUCTURE:Will establish a $10 billion emergency fund for repairs to roads, bridges and seaports. Another $250 million will fund "Emergency Assessment Grants" to help states inspect infrastructure.

LOCAL TRANSIT: Will provide $1.5 billion in additional funding annually for public transit.

AMTRAK AND HIGH-SPEED RAIL: Will increase funding for "inter-city" rail systems by $1 billion over five years. Also plans to invest more in Amtrak.

AIR AND SEA: Would devise a national policy to expand port capacity. *

Movies about Urban Culture: Persepolis

Persepolis is based off a graphic novel about a young girl growing up in Tehran, Iran during the political fall of the Shah dictatorship and the ensuing war with Iraq during the 1980's. (View the trailer)
The film shows the main character, Marjane, a bright and curious girl who is raised by an educated and politically active family whose members strive for freedom and democracy. The films shows that while the dictatorship had it's own brutalities and injustices, the rise of religious fundamentalism made life much worse in a very metropolitan Tehran and Iran as a whole. While the Fundamentalist movement killed or jailed all of it's opposition it also squashed almost all forms of personal expression and individual freedoms especially for women.

The film showed how a somewhat cosmopolitan city could be transformed into a military state where all citizens are suspects. How simple men could rise from nothing to positions of power just by having a dogmatic faith. One thing that was very intriguing in the film is how the functionalities and layers of a city could be used to control it's own cities. Unlike a rural setting, city dwellers take for granted that some one or some power controls everything from your water, power, protection and of course education. What can a city dweller really do if a government tries to control or manipulate it's citizens through the basic functionalities and infrastructure of a city?

People form cities or come to cities with the basic understanding that everyone will share in the responsibility of maintaining the infrastructure and costs of that city for the shared interest of creating a better society through personal wealth, education, culture or all the above. But what happens when a force comes in and no longer shares that vision of creating a better society. Is that place still a functional city if the basic premise of creativity and culture is taken away?
Even if you have not seen the movie, please let us know what you think about the importance of not altering the creativity and cultures of cities.

Friday, April 11, 2008

1987 Version of Towson Circle III

Image of the proposed Towson Circle III project along East Joppa Road

As the new Towson Circle III development is gearing up to bring more retail along Joppa Road as well as a movie theater, let's look back at what Towson Circle III could have looked like if this 1987 proposal of Shealey Square went through.
View of the proposed hotel. Looks like an Atlantic City Casino-Hotel

Here's a view of the proposed residential towers. Huge multi-story parking garage super blocks that obliterate the scale of adjacent buildings are sexy.

Here is a site plan of the proposed super block.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

1964 Towson Redevelopment Plan

The Redevelopment Plan

The images that you are about to see below are scans of an old 1964 Towson Redevelopment and Rehabilitation Commission Plan for a vision of Towson in 1975. The plan included a reconfiguration of streets, land uses and public spaces with some spectacularly bad 1960's International-style designed architecture.
Overall, the plan is very bold and there are some good features to the plan. Fortunately this planning vision did not take hold but I do have to say after viewing other redevelopment plans for Towson, a lot of times the planners proposed great plans that would have positively impacted the Towson core if the political will was there. Unfortunately, as planners we are proposing the same common sense plans as the planners before us had did in the previous decade. However the plan your about to see below is not a plan that we wish to duplicate.
I remember an Urban Studies professor I had was grilled by one of my classmates to name one positive, concrete thing he did when he was a city planner. He paused and then stated..."I stopped a lot of bad plans."
Existing Land Use of Towson in 1962

Proposed Land use map. As you can see from the map, the vision for Towsontowne Boulevard (minus the bridges) and Bosley Avenue came from this plan.

A close-up map of the core.

A transect of proposed buildings in the core

View of the plaza east of York Road

Image of what would be Towson Circle today

View of York Road from the south. Notice the tunnels for York Road going toward the Towson Circle. The tunnel is reminiscent of the tunnel found in downtown Rockville, MD.

View of Pennsylvania Avenue

View of retail shops. This picture is pretty accurate to what Towson looks like today.

View of the proposed government complex and public plaza

View of proposed moderate income housing. The plan sought to eliminate the neighborhood of East Towson due to blight. East Towson is currently a Nationally registered historic district which is comprised of descendants of the enslaved people of the nearby Hampton Mansion.

Proposed Towson skyline looking from the south

Towson back in the day - Pictures from 1962 and beyond

As the former town of Towson now a large edge city/suburb that is just due north of the Baltimore City line continues to redevelop the blog decided to look back at how the original Towson Town used to look.

The York Road-Dunaley Valley Road-Joppa Road-Allegheny Avenue interection before the circle.

Scenes from the core

FAMOUS - 4th Biggest City Music Video

Excuse the cursing but check out the signts of Toronto and the lyrics Famous kicks about the city

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Graffiti Photo Kings

This group documented the last few years of the graffiti movement on New York subways

Monday, April 7, 2008

Unfamiliar Skyline Series...Central America

Panama City, Panama
Panama City, Panama

San Jose, Costa Rica

San Pedro Sula, Honduras

Acapulco, Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico