Plans for the $5.5 billion Port Covington redevelopment are designed to adjust to how residents will get around Baltimore in the future, according to executives of the lead developer.
Marc Weller and Steve Siegel, partners at Weller Development Co. LLC, spoke with The Daily Record on Thursday. In a wide ranging conversation about the most ambitious redevelopment effort in Baltimore since the Inner Harbor they address a variety of topics, such as the project’s progress, dealing with skeptics, and the type of companies they hope to attract to the 235-acre waterfront property that will eventually feature 13,500 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space and 200 hotel rooms.
You listen to this conversation or read the lightly edited version of the transcript below. A full transcript will be available online soon.[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/474455043″ params=”color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”300″ iframe=”true” /]
TDR: One of the things that’s been changing, or I think it’s been hyped about what’s changing, is how people go to work. How are you building in that flexibility to accommodate changes in transportation style into the development?
Marc Weller: That’s a good question. I’ll let Steve start of with that. But we could talk about that for hours.
Steve Siegel: Yeah, one of the things we set out to do was change behavior of people in Baltimore, and everybody using their car, loves their car, parking is a religion here. So, we need to focus on that behavior and figure out how can we tweak it?… and a lot of it comes down to how great the place is, and the desire to be there… People’s behaviors change when they want to do something, badly, right.
We’ve been talking to Lyft about how we potentially subsidize rides, to get people to work. We’ve talked to the other private transportation operators… and a lot of it has been focused on workforce, and how do we get people to the jobs. But getting people down here in general is going to be combination of bike and pedestrian. We have a great bike path now that’s open that people are using. That was not a possibility before. You could not come down here basically on bike, even walking was dangerous.
MW: One of my favorite things about the bike path, and we can get into a couple of other topics around it, one of my favorite this is, I always looked at how to get across Hanover Street, and I was very intimidated. Who’s going to run the light? Who’s not? trying to get cross. There really wasn’t a proper crosswalk. It was a little intimidating for me.
SS: Fast street.
MW: Because I have five children I always think of things in terms of, “Was this something I would do with my children? Would I come down here with my family and cross this street?” And I determined that no, that it wasn’t something I was interested in.
We worked very hard with the city, and several other groups, to come up with a bike path, and a bike path plan that goes underneath the Hanover Street Bridge, and connects with the one side of Port Covington to the other side, and goes up by Nick’s (Fish House), and connects back in there. Just making pedestrian friendly, and I would say affordable, solution in the way people can get through and around the site. So, that was one thing that we’re doing to start improving things.
Another thing is we’re still working on the Light Rail. We’d love to see the light rail extend from Westport into the site. We know it’s a longer-term plan, but it’s something that a lot of people have a lot of interest in, and it’s something that we believe would be helpful to the site, and to the city of Baltimore.
TDR: How would you characterize where those light rail discussions are? Is it just concept or…
MW: It’s just concept right now. It’s concept. We’ve had (the) concept since we’ve started the project. It’s fairly obvious if you look at it because there’s a train trestle out there that’s CSX property, and you could imaging an easement or something like that next to it coming across from the Light Rail off of Westport.