Reimagine Middle Branch Plan

Honor Award

Analysis and Planning

Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Field Operations
Client: South Baltimore Gateway Partnership and the City of Baltimore

Grounded by four powerful “Equity Frameworks,” this plan honors community vision by concentrating new amenities and ecological restoration in neighborhoods that have experienced acute disinvestment. The plan addresses both social and environmental inequities while restoring natural systems, creating a resilient shoreline that ensures community and environmental well-being now and into the future. Catalytic projects build community capacity and deepen the connection between people and place. It has the strength of focusing on equity.

- 2023 Awards Jury

Project Credits

Field Operations, Design Lead, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design, Master Planning, Public Engagement

Mahan Rykiel Associates, Local Landscape Architect

Design Jones, Baltimore Cultural Landscape Specialist

Moffatt & Nichol, Civil, Coastal, Structural and Marine Engineering

Toole Design, Multimodal Transportation & Traffic Engineering

Biohabitats, Environmental Engineering & Ecology

Waldon Studio, Local Urban Design & Architecture

Assedo Consulting, Community Outreach & Facilitation

The Urban Studio, Youth & Virtual Engagement Specialist

Kofi Boone, Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Design Specialist

KG&A, PR/Strategic Messaging Plan

Public Mechanics, Graphic Design, Digital Media & Messaging Implementation

Urbane Development, Governance, Revenue Generation, Real Estate & Equitable Development

Dharam Consulting, Costing & Implementation Strategies

Project Statement

Reimagine Middle Branch is a community-driven initiative to reconnect South Baltimore with a system of world-class parks, trails, programs and economic development plans along 11 miles of the Middle Branch shoreline on the Patapsco River.

While the Plan outlines a visionary physical transformation of the Middle Branch, it is also meant to catalyze the intangible transformation of place for one that is equitable and inclusive. To that end, the Plan recommends a series of capital improvements along with public programs, partnerships, policies, job opportunities and equitable economic development initiatives. As a result, this Plan is fundamentally about environmental and social justice, resilience and health.

Project Narrative

The Reimagine Middle Branch Plan presents a powerful, long-term vision to connect South Baltimore communities with one another and their waterfront. The Plan’s study area includes 11 miles of shoreline, 598 acres of parkland and 19 neighborhoods across South Baltimore. Communities there live near or adjacent to one of the Chesapeake Bay’s most neglected shorelines and are often separated from their waterfront by transportation infrastructure or industrial land uses. Amplified by the challenges of climate change and systemic racism, environmental injustices here diminish quality of life, especially for working-class residents of color.

Fundamentally about equity and justice, resilience and health, the Plan imagines a holistic transformation of place supported by new jobs, wealth generation and quality of life amenities that extend beyond the built environment.

Equity Frameworks
Four “Equity Frameworks” (Restore the Shoreline, Transform Barriers into Connections, Create Active & Inclusive Parks and Support Communities with Equitable Development) structure the Plan’s design vision. The equity frameworks translate community input into design, programming, development and policy recommendations to be implemented over the next two decades. Investments that include living shorelines, complete streets, recreational trails, park amenities, piers and boardwalks are concentrated in the neighborhoods which have experienced acute disinvestment. Economic development and education initiatives are integrated with public realm improvements to catalyze a holistic transformation of place.

Nature-Based Solutions
A deep dive into the shoreline framework illustrates the depth, detail and level of resolution achieved:

Over time, the Middle Branch shoreline has been reshaped and hardened by industry and infrastructure. These changes exacerbate poor water quality and the impacts of flooding and storm surge. The Plan recommends restoring the thick, green and resilient shoreline edge that once defined this Chesapeake Bay tributary. This strategy reintroduces natural systems to improve water quality and ecological systems while fostering interaction between people and their environment on new trails, boardwalks and in education spaces. Constructed wetlands and berms along the shoreline protect critical infrastructure, including a hospital and city-wide power plant, from flooding and storm surge. The implementation of this new shoreline utilizes excess dredge material from the Port of Maryland and catalyzes the establishment of a native plant nursery managed by a local non-profit and staffed by community members to supply native grasses and wetland plants.

A Community-Driven Plan
Creating this compelling vision was only possible with the creative and expert input of the community. The team reached the public in creative ways, including a mobile project hub that hosted pop-up events and a curated interview series shared on the Plan’s social media channels. To embody equity, three action-oriented projects were produced during the planning process: Splash! A Community Waterfront Event, the Morgan State University Fellowship Program, and the Community Design Lab. While not traditionally included in large-scale master plans, these “catalysts” were critical to building equitable outcomes.

With recent approval by the Baltimore Planning Commission, the Reimagine Middle Branch Plan is poised to deliver visionary projects and programs to South Baltimore.