GBC unveils fresh concepts to ‘take the Inner Harbor to the next level’

Leaders of the Greater Baltimore Committee on May 25 released fresh details of a proposed new arena and expanded convention center near the Inner Harbor and announced new concepts for converting Rash Field into an engaging waterfront park and for enlivening the harbor with spectacular nighttime water and light shows.

The GBC unveiled the Inner Harbor concepts during its 2011 Annual Meeting at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore.

The GBC, the region’s most prominent organization of business and civic leaders, was the major private-sector driver 50 years ago in transforming the Inner Harbor into a nationally-recognized waterfront venue. The GBC also played major roles in building the current arena and convention center.

“The arena, convention center and the Inner Harbor have been big parts of the lives of a generation of Baltimore-area residents and visitors,” said GBC president and CEO Donald C. Fry. “But it’s time to take the Inner Harbor to the next level for future generations, and we have an opportunity to combine three much-needed improvements to do just that.”

Specifically, the GBC is proposing:

An 18,500-seat arena, a new 500-room hotel and an expanded convention center
The arena and the hotel would be located on the corner of Conway and Charles Streets – the current site of the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel. Both would be privately funded, according to Fry. The site is owned by Baltimore businessman Willard Hackerman, who supports the concept.

The new hotel would be built on top of the arena. The new arena’s concourse would be seamlessly connected to a new convention center wing that would expand the center’s size to 760,000 square feet – more than twice the size of the existing convention center. The convention center expansion would be built on the site of the existing convention center’s east wing that is located on a Pratt Street site adjacent to the proposed site of the new arena.

Preliminary cost estimates for these projects are $175 million to build the hotel, $325 million to build the arena, and $400 million to build the convention center expansion, said Fry. 
Before and after images of the arena and convention center proposals.

Converting the seven-acre Rash Field into a world-class waterfront park
The GBC is proposing three conceptual options designed by Baltimore’s largest architecture firm, Ayers/Saint/Gross. The concepts incorporate recreation venues, history, trees, outdoor sculpture and open space into designs that rival other similar-sized urban parks in cities such as New York and Seattle, Washington, said Fry.

One of the concepts for Rash Field includes a pedestrian bridge across the harbor to Pier 5. Modeled after similar bridges in Europe, the pedestrian bridge would open to enable large ships to pass into the Inner Harbor. The bridge would complete a circular 1.5-mile Inner Harbor Walk.

Rash Field concepts also include walking connections over Key Highway to Federal Hill and the Visionary Arts Museum.
Vote on your favorite Rash field design.

A water and light show in the Inner Harbor. The GBC is proposing a concept for a compelling nighttime water and light show, coupled with projections on buildings, LED lights and a lasers that incorporate a much-needed new “wow factor” into the Inner Harbor after dark, said Fry.

The convergence of Baltimore’s need for a new arena and convention center – combined with Mr. Hackerman’s support for building, and financing, a new hotel and arena on his property adjacent to the original east wing of the Baltimore Convention Center – presents a rare opportunity for the city and state, said Fry.

“This concept, combined with the nearby baseball and football stadiums, gives us a chance to accomplish a dramatic transformation of the Inner Harbor area into a sports, entertainment, and recreation venue that would be largely unrivaled in the nation,” he said.

GBC’s video on transforming the Inner Harbor Experience.

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