The Renewal of Old Ports Around the World
The story begins in the 1950's, when container ships
replaced the traditional types of ocean-going vessels and caused
the abandonment of old ports all over the Globe, leaving an industrial
wasteland that cut the city centers off from their historical birthplace
at the harbor.
In cities like Baltimore, Sydney and Rotterdam, the
port's decline was accelerated by the flight of residents and businesses
from the central city, due to the availability of post-war suburban
housing and accessibility on a regional highway system. The economic
value of downtown property went into a radical decline, threatening
the central city with municipal bankruptcy.
the abandonment of the old ports also created an opportunity for
those cities to redefine their city centers - utilizing the central
location and symbolic nature of the waterfront to make it into a
place for the people of the city to enjoy and gather to celebrate
their cultures and history. This happened all over the World, including
such cities as Sydney, Rotterdam, Barcelona, Osaka, Belfast, and
Capetown, as well as U.S.cities such as Norfolk, Long Beach, Honolulu,
Pittsburgh and San Diego.
In Baltimore, the business community reacted with
a determination to plan and develop the new uses that would prosper
in the new environment. Private business leaders raised funds to
create a Master Plan for the Central Business District, which was
donated to the municipal government with a recommendation for condemnation,
demolition and rebuilding of the waterfront - at the center of downtown.
The municipal government joined forces with the business
groups, forming one of the first-ever public-private partnerships,
and the voters of the city approved $25 million ($150 million in
2008 dollars) in municipal bonds for working capital. The first phase
of redevelopment, a 22-acre project known as Charles Center, was
launched in 1958.
The first project was more successful than any one
anticipated, and by 1963, Charles Center had three buildings completed
and six more committed - including office buildings, apartments,
a hotel and a new legitimate theatre. A new Mayor took office at
that point and elevated the pace of redevelopment to include the
entire 300 acres of downtown surrounding the historic Inner Harbor.
Four more phases quickly took form, and by 1973 the
Inner Harbor was surrounded with headquarters office buildings. The
shoreline was transformed into a playground of parks and promenades
that brought the people of the city back to enjoy the ethnic festivals
and City Fairs on the waterfront.
Then in 1976, when Tall Ships from all over the World
assembled for the U.S. Bicentennial. Afterward, eight of them sailed
to Baltimore to tie up at the Inner Harbor and hold open house for
ten days of celebrations. The result was to attract hundreds of thousands
of people - the raw material for an international tourist destination.
Baltimore's public-private partnership rose to the
occasion and spent the next five years developing a series of major
attractions - a science center, aquarium, convention center and five-star
hotel - which were then drawn together by a Festival Marketplace
into a critical mass of tourist attractions. By 1981, the Inner Harbor
became the focus of a multi-billion dollar tourist industry where
there had been none before.
This astonishing transformation of a declining, old,
rust-belt city into one of the World's premier tourist destinations
was not lost on the other port cities that had lost their identity
through the evolution of container shipping in the 1950's and 60's.
The Baltimore management team was besieged with requests from other
cities to show them how to emulate that transformation.
First to act on the Baltimore example was Sydney, Australia, where
a visionary developer convinced the provincial government to
call in the Baltimore management
team and with their guidance created a critical mass of attractions at Darling
Harbour -- just in time for the Australian Bicentennial in 1988, and later
to attract the World Olympics in 2000.
The success of the Darling Harbour development caused
the Baltimore and Sydney managers to form an international property
consulting group that created a business of carrying the Baltimore
model to other old port cities. Over the next 20 years, more than
100 cities were influenced in this manner, or by simply observing
the Baltimore model, to redevelop their waterfronts as successful
leisure and entertainment centers.
Notable among them were Norfolk, Long Beach and Honolulu
in the U.S., and Barcelona, Rotterdam, Osaka and Belfast, overseas
- where the Baltimore team was actively involved. Other cities such
as Miami, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago and New Orleans in the
U.S., and Dublin, Capetown, Singapore and Yokohama overseas created
their own transformations.
The “Global Harbors” film was created to document
this movement to replace abandoned port facilities all over the World
- a movement that is still under way, with new waterfront redevelopment
programs springing up in such cities as Seoul, Tangier, Porto Alegre,
Brazil; Montevideo, Uruguay; Belfast (again), Edinburgh and Washington,