Why is the former Walter P. Carter Center being demolished and what will take its place? Amid the recent demolition schedule updates and pedestrian detours at UMB, this is the first story to address these questions.
The building at 630 W. Fayette St. will be razed to make room for a nearly 300-space parking lot that will be paid for by the University of Maryland Medical Center for use by hospital staff. The current demolition process will be completed in July with the surfacing and landscaping of the parking lot finished by the end of 2017.
“It’s a win-win,” says Dawn Rhodes, MBA, chief business and finance officer and vice president at UMB, who pointed out that the medical center’s use of the land is only temporary. “We are removing a building that had gone unused for years, at no cost to us, with the opportunity to buy back the property as long as we reimburse the medical center for the unamortized portion of the demolition costs. It benefits us both. The medical center has use of the property for what their uses are right now and we have access to get it back and later use it for what we determine to be the highest and best use for the land.”
Thanks to urging from members of the UMB team involved in the project, the new surface parking lot will have trees on its perimeter as well as strips of greenery throughout it.
“The original design was just a sea of asphalt,” says Anthony Consoli, AIA, UMB’s campus architect. “With the help of the medical center we adjusted the design to integrate some green areas not just on the perimeter of the parking lot but internally as well. Increasing the tree canopy and reducing the urban heat island effect is part of UMB’s Resilience Commitment component of the University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, signed by UMB in December 2015, that guides us on such projects.”
Rhodes applauded the change. “On an urban campus it’s always pleasant to have components of green space and flowers. It just makes for a more welcoming campus environment.”
She and Consoli also were glad to preserve Arch Street as a pedestrian walkway when the project is complete. Arch Street is an important north-south pedestrian artery within the campus. Until the end of this calendar year alternatives to Arch Street will detour pedestrians to Pine and Pearl streets. The corner of Arch and Fayette was not captured as part of the construction zone at the insistence of Bob Rowan, associate vice president for facilities and operations, who recently retired after 32 years at the University. “Bob Rowan and others really worked hard to keep that corner out of the construction zone,” Rhodes says. “People will still be able to cross the street there.”
Other streets affected during the demolition include:
- The north side sidewalk on Fayette Street between Arch and Pine streets will be closed. The south side sidewalk currently closed for Health Sciences Facility (HSF) III construction should open before the north side closes.
- The east side sidewalk on Pine Street between Fayette and Lexington streets will be closed. The Fayette Street crosswalk at Pine Street will be usable.
- The Vine Street Alley will remain open for vehicle traffic only until June when construction of the new parking lot will begin.
Pedestrians are encouraged to cross Fayette Street using the crosswalks at Greene, Arch, or Pine streets. Directional signage is being installed in the coming weeks near the demolition area to help pedestrians. Two new crosswalks will be installed to shift pedestrians to the west side of Pine Street for safety.
“We appreciate the patience and cooperation of those inconvenienced by the Carter Center demolition, especially the dozens of people whose parking spots are affected,” says Rhodes. “We’ve done our best to accommodate them. On campus, there is lots of construction going on in a consolidated area of space between the duct bank project, the Carter Center, and finishing up HSF III. We urge people to be mindful of the construction areas and exercise caution.”
Those at UMB have continued to call the building at 630 W. Fayette St. the Carter Center even though officially the name was moved to the 701 W. Pratt Street Building years ago when the last of the mental health services was transferred there. The 701 building, which is owned and operated by the medical center, also contains a portrait of Carter and some historical artifacts that once resided in the building slated for demolition.
Walter P. Carter was a champion for change as a civil rights leader, serving as Baltimore head of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) in the 1960s, organizing freedom rides in Maryland to desegregate public accommodations. In a speech on the day in 1971 he died of a heart attack, Carter, 48, said, “I will commit the rest of my life to make this city a fit place where our kids can live.”
Rhodes, who created an office to promote diversity and inclusion in her previous role at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, is pleased that Walter P. Carter still is being remembered so near the UMB campus.
“The vacant building on Fayette Street had fallen into disrepair in recent years and no longer was becoming of the Carter legacy,” says Rhodes. “I’m glad his many contributions are still being remembered at the Carter Center just a few blocks away on Pratt Street.”