View a time lapse video of the Inner Harbor. Flash Player 7 or higher needed.  

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.

However, 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.

More >>

The Documentary

Global Harbors: A Waterfront Renaissance” is a 60-minute documentary about an international phenomenon. It's the story of how the redevelopment of the Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore transformed an abandoned, blighted waterfront into a world-renowned cultural and entertainment destination, becoming a model for other cities across the U.S. and around the World. This riveting tale is told by journalist turned urban planner Martin Millspaugh and first person accounts from other community leaders who accomplished what was once considered nearly impossible.

Global Harbors was shot in high definition in Baltimore Maryland, Sydney Australia, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Long Beach California and Norfolk Virginia. Produced by award winning journalists Cari Stein and Kim Skeen of Ivy Media and narrated by native Baltimorean and Hollywood actor/ film director Charles S. Dutton, Global Harbors: A Waterfront Renaissance traces the astonishing transformation of a declining, old, rust-belt city into a waterfront metropolis that inspired the world.

Maryland Public Television partnered in the project with production support and guidance. Global Harbors is a production of Global Harbors Documentary, Inc., a non-profit, 501( c)(3) corporation based in Baltimore, MD.

Purchase the DVD

To purchase a DVD of Global Harbors: A Waterfront Renaissance including nearly one hour of extra bonus material, click here to go to the MPT Marketplace/Global Harbors.

Single copy $19.95, with discounts for quantity orders