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Baltimore’s McKeldin Square reopens to the public

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(Photos by Maximilian Franz)

Courtney McKeldin sat on a bench Thursday morning inspecting the park at the intersection of Pratt and Light streets built on a square named for her late father-in-law Theodore McKeldin, the former mayor and governor.

McKeldin, along with her grandson Peter Charles Wayner IV, said they were impressed with the $4 million project that added grass, shade trees and terraced seating to McKeldin Square, which was previously dominated by a brutalist fountain. Despite some residents being upset about the destruction of the fountain, McKeldin, a former zoning board member, admitted “we didn’t love the fountain.”

“I’m overwhelmed. I think (the park is) fantastic,” McKeldin said.

The square serves as a tribute to McKeldin, who after being elected mayor for the second time in 1963, after serving two terms as governor, launched plans to invest in the city’s waterfront. His breaking party lines to back Democratic President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Courtney McKeldin said, was rewarded by Baltimore receiving $16.1 million in unrestricted federal aid to buy the property that became the square and much of the Inner Harbor.

On Thursday, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore opened the park to the public after being closed for work and demolition that started last July. A bigger opening ceremony for the revamped square is expected to be held next month.

McKeldin Square, which opened in 1982, serves as a gateway to the Inner Harbor as well as space for protests and sundry public uses. Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, promised the tradition would continue with 90 percent more space open for permitted gatherings.

Funds for the first phase of the transformation of McKeldin Square came in thirds from private donors, the city and the state. A second phase to better connect the square to the Inner Harbor by eliminating the traffic spur to Calvert Street is still years away, Fowler said.

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