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Grand Vision For Inner Harbor Revealed

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — An ambitious plan for Baltimore’s crown jewel — the Inner Harbor. The city wants to add pizzaz to the popular tourist attraction, but the plan is coming with a hefty price.

Turning that vision into a reality could take years to complete.

Mike Hellgren explores the new plans and whether they’re worth it.

The big projects to add sparkle include a new pedestrian bridge, a pool and urban beach, but also basic improvements. While city leaders and their partners would not talk money, Baltimore is asking the state for $3 million a year. The project will be done piece by piece.

The mayor calls it a “softer, greener” Inner Harbor with ambitious plans, including a pedestrian bridge from Harbor East to Federal Hill. It’s all to improve the city’s crown jewel, which some say has become a bit tarnished.

“You come down here in the wintertime, especially at the pavilions here, and it’s pretty much vacant,” said Steve Hansen, Timonium.

“Some parts of the harbor seem like they’ve been in a time capsule,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

While leaders aren’t talking about cost, they point to how vital the harbor is to the economy. Last year alone, 14 million visitors spent an average of $207 each trip, raking in $102 million in state and city taxes.

“We’re from New York and we’re just delighted at how nice it looks actually,” said tourist Debbie Cohen.

The goal is to expand on the old excitement, connecting the harbor with Canton and Fort McHenry.

“You used to see on the Inner Harbor it was fruit stands and fish markets. Now it’s the Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton. That’s a great snapshot,” said Tom Noonan, President and CEO of Visit Baltimore.

Rash Field could see the biggest change. They want to put a stage, outdoor cafes and even a beach in. And underground, they want to make a new parking garage.

But there are reservations. Past development plans, like one from 2011 that included a moveable bridge, new convention center and Vegas-style light show, have yet to become reality.

And then there’s the cost. It would be paid through a combination of private, city and state funds.

“It’s a waste of money when they could use that money for other things,” said Joaquita Green, Baltimore.

Some of the basic improvements that could become a reality soon include those to the lighting systems and also crumbling bricks.

The Waterfront Partnership says the Inner Harbor supports 21,000 jobs.

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