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Baltimore Penn Station Plans Redevelopment

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

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Despite dips in ridership revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amtrak has announced it will be moving forward with the renovation of Baltimore’s historic Penn Station and recently announced preliminary concepts for the project.

According to reports, the renovation plans to transform the historic transportation center into a modern and more functional transit “experience” for passengers.

Baltimore Penn Station

Located between the Amtrak Northeast Corridor and the Jones Falls Expressway, the Baltimore Penn Station was originally completed in 1911 at the cost of $1 million. Most notable features at the time included its triumphant garb of Beaux-Arts classicism, a favored style during the American Renaissance.

Since its construction, the station has been considered as a vital intermodal center with MARC commuter rail connections to Washington, D.C., and Perryville, Maryland.

Almost a century after its completion, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Amtrak and the Maryland Transit Administration undertook a series of improvement projects throughout the historic station including: $1.1 million for the installation of a new fire protection system; $4 million for improvements to heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, as well as window refurbishments; and $1 million for the renovation and modernization of the station’s restrooms.

While work for these projects continued into the fall of 2013, over that summer, the stations’s front plaza was also redesigned and transformed into an inviting, vibrant public space for both travelers and local residents to relax and socialize.

That same year, Amtrak kicked off a two-year master planning process, incorporating three components: State of Good Repair Study, Operations and Facilities Plan and Commercial Development Plan.

By December 2017, Amtrak announced the selection of Penn Station Partners, a Baltimore-based team to negotiate a $400 million to $600 million master development deal for Baltimore Penn Station and neighboring Amtrak-owned properties. The team is comprised of Beatty Development Group, Armada Hoffler Properties, Cross Street Partners, Gensler, WSP USA, Network Rail Consulting and Mace Group, among others.

By spring 2019, Amtrak reached commercial close for Baltimore Penn Station with the execution of a Master Development Agreement with Penn Station Partners to redevelop and expand the station.

In wake of COVID-19, Amtrak officials anticipated that the transit company would lose more than $700 million in adjusted operating earnings in fiscal 2020 and report a 95% reduction in riders. However, Stephen Gardner, a senior executive vice president of the rail line said at the time that redeveloping Amtrak’s eighth busiest station was “critical.”

In confirming that the plan would move forward, Timothy P. Davis, senior planning manager at WSP USA told reporters that the renovation project would likely break ground within 18 months of

In April of this year, Amtrak received $1 billion in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation under the CARES Act, with about half earmarked for the Northeast corridor. In addition, Amtrak agreed to invest $90 million in improvements as part of the deal, including expansion and modernization to accommodate passenger growth and significantly improve the customer experience. The Maryland Historic Revitalization also secured a $3 million tax credit, and in February, investment firm Blueprint Local contributed an “undisclosed amount” in Opportunity Zone funding.

By May, Engineering News-Record reported that the project already had 15% of the redevelopment designs completed, with phased portions of the project expected to go out for bid soon.

Redevelopment Plans

According to reports, the multi-phase renovation plans to maintain the character of the century-old Head House—the main building located on North Charles—but also plans to transform the station into a three-tiered system that will link to a commercial center.

Peter Stubb, principal at the Gensler design firm, recently presented design plans at a virtual Urban Design and Architecture Advisory Panel, revealing that the expansion would not only reduce traffic at the entrance, but includes space for food trucks, parking for bikes and scooters, designated bus zones and pedestrian-friendly walkways.

The station also plans to install new glass windows where a “train as theater” element will be provided for commuters, and a variety of track improvements as to accommodate Amtrak’s next generation of high-speed trains.

In addition to station renovations, plans also reveal that as much as 1.6 million square feet of surrounding Amtrak-owned areas could be shaped into a transit-oriented hub of apartments, shops, offices and a hotel.

The design and development partners have participated in several active community meetings and town hall-style discussions regarding the changes, Stubb continued. Some meetings have even resulted in the addition of other renovation features such as elevated outdoor seating areas.

Other outdoor updates include a granite exterior, steel detail work, copper and the installation of a green roof, complete with vegetation, on the commercial building.

“It’ll be a hub for travel but also a destination that people wouldn’t mind going to an hour ahead of time,” said UDAAP chair Pavlina Ilieva after reviewing the renderings. “It’s clear and easy to get to things.”

The team has submitted permits to begin work on the first stage, which could start as early as the end of this year, according to a phasing timeline provided by Beatty Development. The first phase of redevelopment could take up to two years.


Tagged categories: Color + Design; Commercial / Architectural; Design; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Maintenance + Renovation; NA; North America; Project Management; Projects - Commercial; Renovation; Upcoming projects

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