$6.75M face-lift set for Pre­ston Gar­dens

Baltimore Sun - - AROUND THE REGION - By Car­rie Wells cwells@balt­sun.com

Pre­ston Gar­dens, a his­toric but run­down park sep­a­rat­ing St. Paul Street from St. Paul Place in down­town Bal­ti­more, will get a $6.75 mil­lion face-lift soon that will add green space to its upper level and re­store its aging sand­stone and brick wall.

The Down­town Part­ner­ship, city of­fi­cials and Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings an­nounced the 18-month project Tues­day, though some prepara­tory work has been un­der­way since June. They en­vi­sion a more invit­ing pub­lic space for down­town Bal­ti­more res­i­dents to eat lunch, play bocce and lis­ten to live mu­sic.

The iconic park has be­come more like a traf­fic me­dian over the decades, said Down­town Part­ner­ship of­fi­cials.

“With the res­i­dents mov­ing around, we needed to have a qual­ity space,” said Kirby Fowler, pres­i­dent of the Down­town Part­ner­ship. “Ten years ago, 20 years ago, that was not the case for Pre­ston Gar­dens.”

The restora­tion will in­clude turn­ing a lane of traf­fic on St. Paul Place that runs above the park into green space. The park’s iconic wall has been un­der struc­tural stress from car­ry­ing the weight of traf­fic, and mov­ing cars far­ther away from it will help it last longer, of­fi­cials said. The wall and its sweep­ing stair­cases will be cleaned, re­pointed and shored up un­der the restora­tion plan.

“What makes Bal­ti­more spe­cial is our unique nat­u­ral places, so I’m ex­cited about what we have been able to do,” Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake said. “We are al­ways look­ing for innovative ways to cre­ate and pre­serve green spa­ces within our city.”

The park was con­ceived by renowned land­scape ar­chi­tect Fred­er­ick Law Olm­sted and built around 1920.

“It’s likely that there hasn’t been this sig­nif­i­cant an in­vest­ment in Pre­ston Gar­dens since it was built,” Fowler said.

Still, the Down­town Part­ner­ship re­cently took over main­te­nance of the park, rip­ping up shrubs, putting in lights and fix­ing the long-dry foun­tains. Nearby, the part­ner­ship also spent $50,000 to add chang­ing col­ored LED lights to an un­der­pass on St. Paul Street near Mercy Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

Fund­ing for the project came from the Down­town Part­ner­ship, the fed­eral and state gov­ern­ments, Mercy Med­i­cal Cen­ter and the city.

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