Public input guides revised Cambridge Harbor plans

By Debra R. Messick, Dorchester Banner 
Posted 6/29/22

As director of the nonprofit Cambridge Waterfront Development Inc., Matt Leonard considers himself a partner with an adopted community he's come to treasure. 

"My wife and I moved to …

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Public input guides revised Cambridge Harbor plans

Posted

As director of the nonprofit Cambridge Waterfront Development Inc., Matt Leonard considers himself a partner with an adopted community he's come to treasure. 

"My wife and I moved to Cambridge nearly three years ago because we were looking for our final and forever home. We chose Cambridge because we fell in love with it the first time we crossed the Choptank River and visited Downtown in July 2019. 

“I was inspired to apply for and then accept the offer to work with CWDI in December 2021 because of the importance of the mission to the community, and the character and passion of its Board of Directors.

“What I’ve learned about Cambridge since moving here is that it is exactly what it appeared to be when I first arrived -- an active and accepting place steeped in culture and complex heritage, populated with friendly industrious people working to make their lives and community better," Leonard said.

In that spirit of community service, the organization paid close attention to more than 500 responses received during a month-long period open to public feedback.

Leonard and his team carefully collected survey responses and comments, analyzing the most requested items, including them in the revised plan for the former Hospital, Governor's Park, and surrounding areas, released on June 7. 

The suggestions, listed in order of frequency received, included:

- Long time coming, get it done.

- Support for the amount of green space being retained and improved.

- Save the two large English Elm trees in front of the hospital on Byrn Street.

- Need a performance venue, outdoor or enclosed.

- If boat ramp stays, ensure adequate parking.

- Connection transportation to Downtown by trolley or water taxi, plus safer biking/walking over Cambridge Creek.

- Mixed use construction below 3 to 4 stories.

- Residential should include more than high priced condos.

- Offer art and culture, unique food & drink venues other than currently downtown.

- Adequate parking for residents and visitors. 

The updated plan, with just minimal tweaking needed, revealed how these points had been enacted with key components such as Public Greens and Gateways, Green Space Activation, Champion Elm Tree Park, Connectivity to the Community, Parcels devoted to Hospitality and Food & Beverage, plus Mixed Use, and Maintenance of the Working Waterfront/Maritime Heritage. 

For those familiar with the site but not as well versed in technical architectural terminology, Leonard offered additional insights into what Cambridge Harbor would look like on the ground:

"The public greens are natural areas which won't be vertically developed, consisting of improved parklike areas remaining continually open to the public, most prominently the open waterfront area stretching from the boat ramp to the beach. Together with the beach and playground, this will be known as Sailwinds Park at Cambridge Harbor. Another public green will be a tree park established along Bryn Street encompassing the two large historic English Elm trees; one of which is Maryland’s champion English Elm.

The tree park, framing Cambridge Harbor's southside, will include signage welcoming people to the area and helping direct them to the amenities included within Cambridge Harbor and outward to the other jewels in the Cambridge crown - The Downtown, Packing House, Cannery Park, Pine Street, Long Wharf, Richardson Museum - to name a few. Other gateways include the green space and mural at Hwy 50 and Maryland Ave on the east end, and the green space at Hayward and Maryland Ave on the west end.

Activation refers to the amenities and events planned for the Sailwinds Park area including the promenade, beach, arts and culture events, and entertainment.

The promenade will be an approximately 24-foot-wide hard surface pathway with designated lanes for bikes and foot traffic.

It will be lighted and include benches and beautifying planted areas.  Within Cambridge Harbor it will connect to the wharf on the west end, and the boardwalk on the east end of the site. The promenade will extend to meet the walkway / bikeway that underpasses the Route 50 bridge and meanders through East Cambridge to the Hyatt resort.

On the west end the pathway will join the sidewalks that lead over the drawbridge to downtown and a pathway that follows Trenton Street along Cambridge Creek to Cedar Street and then to the Packing House and Cannery Park.

The new road shown provides access to both the mixed-use vertical spaces and the open Sailwinds Park, plus hospitality and food & beverage parcels along the Wharf," Leonard explained. 

The updated plan and a separate site branding effort will be incorporated into a Request for Proposal to be issued by CWDI later this month," he added.

Network Realty Partners is providing consultant guidance to the group during the 120 day RFP process period, Leonard mentioned.

"CWDI is currently working on plans and funding sources to begin construction for the horizontal elements like the promenade and green spaces, and expect to begin work on those in the first quarter of 2023. If we find the right development partners during the RFP period, the vertical development could also begin in 2023.

We're looking for developers with a proven history of success, able to show they are capable of moving Cambridge Harbor forward in a timely way in line with the plans we've developed with the community. We're looking for best partners," he emphasized.

Demolition of all of the buildings is scheduled to be completed by December 31 of this year, and chosen development partners will be announced in 2023," Leonard noted.

For more information about Cambridge Harbor, CWDI, or the RFP, contact him at matt.leonard@cwdimd.org.