CAMBRIDGE — Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and its partners on the Cannery Park project celebrated the kickoff of the park’s design phase on Tuesday, Jan. 23.
The park, which will be located adjacent to the former Phillips Packing Co.’s last remaining building — soon to be known as The Packing House — is the culmination of a planning and funds-seeking process that has been in the works for about seven years.
Alexandria-based Parker Rodriguez, a full-service land planning, landscape architecture, and urban design firm, has been selected to design and build Cannery Park. They were chosen for their focus on community-driven, authentic design.
“We want a design and a place that tells the story of Cambridge and Dorchester County,” said ESLC Director of Conservation Katie Parks-White. “Cannery Park and the many other exciting initiatives happening around Cambridge are building on the vibrancy markers to ensure a lively downtown core, a walkable mix of neighborhoods, businesses, and plentiful gathering spaces.
“Together we will create a place of community gathering unique to the character and heritage of Cambridge and Dorchester County that serves as a place for people of all means and perspectives. While there is still much work ahead before Cannery Park opens to the public, we wanted to take a moment today to acknowledge the progress and to celebrate as we move forward. This is a place where our interests align to enhance the community as a whole.”
Principal of Parker Rodriguez Dennis Carmichael urged the community to attend the two design charettes and provide the firm with insight into what they would like to see in the new park.
“We really care about authentic places, and we are not from Cambridge,” he said. “We need you to be part of this process. We need to learn what you value because this is your park.”
The first charette on Tuesday evening was a listening session to gather ideas from the community. At the meeting Thursday, Jan. 25, Carmichael and his associates presented a draft of the design and collected feedback.
Carmichael said the design process will take about three months, and they aim to have a plan to take to Cambridge City Council for approval sometime in the spring.
“The concept design is just one piece driving the renewal of this forgotten site,” Parks-White said. “From the joint funding of the acquisition – with the City of Cambridge, Dorchester County, the State of Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy – to the Packing House redevelopment, the stream restoration, and the Rail-to-Trail conversion, this success is a testament to the value created in partnerships.”
Parks-White noted that Cross Street Partners, the development company driving the Packing House, is also providing a significant portion of the funding, allowing for the community process to create the master design.
The City of Cambridge owns the park. Through a grant from the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bay Trust Fund the city has funded the $1.8 million dollar stream restoration project, which is currently underway and expected to be completed and accessible in the spring.
Dorchester County is funding the design and engineering of the Rail-to-Trail conversion, which is the inactive freight rail line that runs between the Packing House and the park, adding 2.4 acres to the park site, Parks-White said.
The county is also working currently to begin clearing some of the overgrown brush to provide a view of the site from Dorchester Avenue.
Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley and Dorchester County Council President Ricky Travers both spoke to the strengthened partnership of the two local governments they represent, and how the team effort has helped to move this project forward over the past several years.
Cannery Park is one piece of what will be a significant revitalization of the area dubbed the “Packing District,” where the Phillips’ Packing Company’s 60-acre campus once dominated. ESLC and partners are still working diligently to secure funding and tenants that will help to move forward the plans for The Packing House, the last remaining structure from the Phillips campus.
A few of the uses planned for the 60,000-square foot building, once restored, include event space, a kitchen and food business incubator, shared use office space, and a market.