Although it sits at the busiest intersection in downtown Baltimore, until recently Pratt and Light Plaza was barely on the map. Since June 2014, Southwest Airlines and PPS have been working with the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore to transform this previously unremarkable plaza into Baltimore’s “Front Stoop.” Located just adjacent to the inner harbor, the new and lively hangout invites all of Downtown—residents, office workers, transit riders, shoppers, tourists, motorists driving into town, and pre and post-game Orioles and Ravens crowds—to pause and enjoy.
Through an ongoing process of community engagement, thousands of Baltimore residents are helping to shape a new vision for their plaza. It has become a stage for the bustling local art scene, home to an expanded seasonal farmers’ market, and a place to relax and meet friends. In an area of town mainly geared toward visitors and tourists, Pratt and Light Plaza plays a particularly important role in showcasing the authentic “Charm City.”
Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community has helped to fund new movable furniture, permanent “plank” benches and planters, a shipping container kiosk and deck, and interactive art cubes, curated by the Baltimore Museum of Art. The changes have helped Pratt and Light Plaza to become a more welcoming and comfortable place, as well as a more prominent venue for special events and gatherings. Hosting everything from promotional events for local sports teams to holiday craft markets, community conversations, and political protests, Pratt and Light is on its way to becoming the “town square” that Baltimore needs.
Many great public spaces have grown out of communities resisting development. It is the evolution from opposition to proactive visioning - helping to create, finance, and manage public spaces - that often makes the opposition successful. Congress Square, and the community around it, are forging this story of transformation.
Mayor Bill de Blasio caused quite a stir around New York City yesterday as he floated the idea of tearing up the pedestrian plaza in Times Square. This statement was the culmination of several days of debate centered around predatory panhandling and the square’s growing number of “street performers.”