Roland Water Tower Update, Summer 2020
By Mary Page Michel
The Roland Water Tower Stabilization Project continues to move forward. The tower has been out of use as a source of water since the 1930s and has been fenced for more than 10 years. The Roland Park Community Foundation (RPCF), in partnership with Baltimore City Department of General Services (DGS), agreed to stabilize the Roland Water Tower and create a pocket park at the base. The City agreed to lead the design work and the RPCF agreed to manage the construction.
JMT, an architectural firm, was hired by the DGS to create a design plan, which the firm completed in December 2019 with guidance from Tom McCracken, our owners’ representative. Lewis Contractors, the construction manager hired by the RPCF, sent the design plan to subcontractors to solicit their bids, which came in well over the budget agreed upon between the DGS and the RPCF. Lewis is currently working to bring the construction budget closer to the original estimate.
Another factor affecting progress is that the foundations that support historic preservation have directed all of their funding to human services in light of the global pandemic and the extensive needs of members of our community.
As a result, for now at least, construction of the Roland Water Tower Project is on hold. Regardless, the RPCF is committed to moving it forward as quickly as possible.
One element that is moving forward is the creation of an updated pocket park at the base of the tower. A Roland Water Tower Park group was formed with at least two representatives from the three surrounding communities—Roland Park, Hoes Heights and Rolden. The group has extensive experience in gardening, landscape architecture and community development. Members created and distributed a Request for Proposal to local landscape architects, and the group will select a firm in the next few weeks. While it will be a challenge to generate community interest for the greenspace, the three communities care deeply about the park and the landscape architecture firm will find a way to make sure all opinions are heard.
Finally, the peregrine falcons are back! In fact, we may see their fledglings soon. For now, the birds nest in the Roland Water Tower’s roof. The fledglings will start flying in June and will be on their way by July. The RPCF is excited that the renovated tower will include a nesting box, which has already been approved by the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation. So these rare, fascinating birds will be with us for a long time.
Mary Page Michel is chair of the board of the RPCF, a non-profit 501c(3) organization established in 1986 to preserve, maintain and improve the parks, streams, squares, trees and other green spaces in our community. Its mission is to benefit present and future generations of residents and stay true to the Olmsted Brother’s vision for this community.