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Transit, “The Ice House” and West Baltimore

A long-shot project for a neighborhood in urgent need of revival.

Above: Revitalization dreams often feature the burned-out ice house next to the MARC station on West Franklin-Mulberry streets.

The hulking red-brick former American Ice Company building, across from the West Baltimore MARC train station, has been locked in urban limbo since at least 2004, when a major fire severely damaged the century-old structure.

But the graffiti and rotting roof haven’t stopped community members and urban planners from dreaming about a shiny future for the Ice House – and the landscape of vacant and run-down buildings that surround it.

Stoked by the presence there of not just a commuter train station but a stop on the proposed east-west light-rail “Red Line,” they’ve been meeting for years in workshops, charrettes and committees to discuss how transit – and that old building – could spur development.

The latest of these was the annual meeting of the Citizens’ Planning and Housing Association (CPHA), where the Ice House building at 2100 West Franklin Street was discussed in the context of  a $55,000 grant coming from federal Sustainable Communities Initiative funding.

The 100-year-old former ice-making plant sits across Franklin Street from the MARC train parking lot.

The former ice-making plant in West Baltimore is beside a commuter parking lot. (Photo by ArchPlan Inc.)

Architect Klaus Philipsen spoke to the meeting and laid out the case for how transit and a re-purposed Ice House could revitalize the area.

“Ice House Station” from a planning sketch. (Source: Maryland Department of Transportation)

There are those who are skeptical about the concept of transit-oriented development and about the likelihood the $2.5 billion Red Line project will (or should) be funded and built.

Philipsen is not one of them.

“That revitalization leveraged by transit is not a pipe dream and can come out quite spectacularly,” he writes in a recent post on his blog, Community Architect.

Further Reading and Viewing

Here’s a link to how planners these days are envisioning transit-linked development in the Ice House area and attempting to re-write a better future for the area after a disastrous past.

They, for instance, propose that the infamous “Highway to Nowhere” – the never-built interstate that is now a hugely-widened segment of Franklin and Mulberry streets – be given a new name, the “Highway to Somewhere.”

Below is a video made by CPHA intern Sarah Khan (and featuring Eli Pousson of Baltimore Heritage) that takes you in among the defunct machinery and cobwebs inside the Ice House and tells the building’s history.

There's still machinery inside the Ice House. (Photo credit: ArchPlan Inc.)

There’s still rusty machinery inside the Ice House. (Photo by ArchPlan Inc.)

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