University City District creates new Baltimore Crossing pedestrian plaza

Head west on Baltimore Ave from Clark Park and the greenery continues up the street. At several intersections along that route, planted islands liven up what could otherwise be vast expanses of drab concrete roadway. Until recently, this string of green islands stopped at the intersection of 48th & Baltimore, but now, with the help of University City District (UCD), that intersection has been greened and converted into a more friendly pedestrian space. 

Last week UCD put the finishing touches on its intersection makeover and officially converted 48th & Baltimore into the city’s newest pedestrian plaza, which the organization is calling Baltimore Crossing. 

Where 48th Street bends across Baltimore Ave, the one-way Florence Ave spurs off in another direction. Between the three streets was a notoriously wide, difficult to cross intersection. To make the intersection more pedestrian friendly and slow traffic turning on any of the three streets, UCD has installed bumpouts on each of the corners. The bumpouts are painted on the pavement and bordered by large rocks and heavy planters.  

By reducing the amount of roadway pedestrians must cross, the project reduces the amount of time pedestrians are in the crosswalk and exposed to vehicles. The bumpouts cut the distance between the Gold Standard corner and the Calvary Center corner by roughly 41%, the distance across 48th Street by 42% and the distance across Florence Ave by 51%. The bumpouts are also intended to slow cars as they turn onto now narrower streets. 

With the improved pedestrian conditions and a little pizzazz from the new planters and stone barriers, UCD hopes Baltimore Crossing will help tie together the commercial corridor east and west of 48th Street, said Seth Budick, policy and research manager at UCD.

UCD received and roughly matched a $30,000 grant from the City to complete this plaza project. 

Budick said UCD does not have immediate plans to schedule any programming in the ped-plaza as some of the neighbors expressed concerns about overcrowding and noise. 

This is not the first time UCD has masterminded a pedestrian plaza. The   pedestrian plaza can be counted among its successes and was funded through a similar City grant. 

There, Budick said, “Use by stationary users has been relatively light, but consistent. Hundreds of additional pedestrians encounter the plaza every day though, and the response that we’ve received from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.”

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