Los Angeles Dodgers during game against the Baltimore Orioles Sunday, April 21, 2013 at Camden Yards in Baltimore,Maryland. The Dodgers beat the Orioles 7-4. Photo by Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers,LLC 2013.

The newest company in Baltimore is run by a familiar face.

Canopy Team is a women-led planning and development firm that was started in Los Angeles and has expanded by opening an East Coast headquarters in Baltimore, effective today.

The company was co-founded by Janet Marie Smith, the architect and urban planner who was instrumental in the design of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and who went on to shape or reshape ballparks and arenas in Atlanta, Boston and Los Angeles, among other cities.

Starting in 2012, Smith joined the Los Angeles Dodgers as a senior vice president, overseeing a series of upgrades and improvements to Dodger Stadium and Campo Las Palmas, the club’s home in the Dominican Republic. In 2020, she was promoted to the position of Executive Vice President of Planning and Development for the Dodgers. She remains in that role, commuting to Los Angeles from her home in Baltimore.

In January, Smith co-founded Elysian Park Planning as a way to share her design expertise with other sports teams seeking help with stadium construction or renovation projects. Starting with major league baseball teams, she has since branched out to assist minor league teams such as the Worcester Red Sox, a Boston Red Sox farm team that moved to Massachusetts from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, as well as universities and cultural and civic institutions, inside and outside the United States.

Unlike the head of a traditional design firm, construction company or consultancy, Smith has carved out a niche in which she represents team owners and other public and private organizations as they work with architects and contractors. She has also been a visiting professor, guest lecturer or critic at Yale University, Harvard University and Morgan State University. 

‘Building beyond the bleachers’

The Baltimore office is located on the fourth floor of Meadow Mill at 3600 Clipper Mill Road, one of the repurposed Jones Falls Valley mills owned by developer Sam Himmelrich (who once owned properties that the state of Maryland acquired to make way for the Camden Yards sports complex.) It is the new headquarters for the company, which will keep its West Coast office in Los Angeles.

In conjunction with the opening of its Baltimore office, Elysian Park Planning has officially expanded its services and relaunched as Canopy Team, or Canopy for short. Frances “Fran” Weld, formerly the Senior Vice President of Strategy & Development for the San Francisco Giants, is the CEO, with Smith as executive chair. Canopy also has increased its staff and client roster, adding the University of Florida’s Athletic Association and Major League Baseball.

According to the company’s website – canopyteam.com — Canopy is a multi-disciplinary practice that specializes in creating “transformational places that build community.” Its slogan is: “Building beyond the bleachers.”

Smith said she and Weld worked together at Fenway Park in Boston 20 years ago and then again at Struever Brothers, Eccles & Rouse in Baltimore before Weld moved to California to get an MBA degree at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Weld subsequently joined the San Francisco Giants, working for 11 years overseeing its Mission Rock development — a $2.6 billion, 28-acre waterfront neighborhood next to Oracle Park — and serving on the team’s executive committee. She also created and served as CEO for Mission Rock Utilities, the first central heating, cooling and wastewater treatment district in San Francisco. The co-founder of Elysian Park Planning along with Smith, Weld has been Canopy’s CEO since January and recently moved back to Baltimore.

Around the globe 

Canopy Team members have worked on sports venues around the globe, including Dodger Stadium; Stamford Bridge in London; PNC Park in Pittsburgh; and legacy programming for a 2022 FIFA World Cup stadium in Qatar, as well as “more intimate” venues for the Worcester Red Sox, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, and Bowie Baysox.

Canopy employees have also played integral roles in the planning and execution of many special events and experiences, such as Major League Baseball’s Field of Dreams games and the World Baseball Classic. Under the leadership of industry veteran Paul Hanlon, Canopy has launched an Experiences and Operations group that supports leagues, teams, universities, and venue operators in producing special events across the nation.

Before joining Canopy, Hanlon spent more than a decade in the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. As senior director of Ballpark Operations and Sustainability, he was responsible for overseeing the relationship between the 30 Club Ballpark Operators and the league office. A Massachusetts native, he worked in the front office of the Boston Red Sox before joining Major League Baseball.

Other employees include: Derek O’Hara, special projects director; Emily Walthouse, director of planning and development; Thomas DeVoss, senior design manager; John Whitty, project manager; Caroline Stacey, design manager; Patrese Frazier, executive manager; Anthony Egan, controller; Sabriya Chaudhry, manager of special projects; Benjamin Weingarten, project coordinator; Gianna Danese, administrative assistant; and Kevin Greene, special projects consultant. 

Elysian Fields

Elysian Park Planning was born as an extension of Elysian Park Ventures, an investment platform. The name is a nod to Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, one of the earliest ballparks, made famous in a Currier & Ives print. In Greek mythology and religion, Elysian Fields is the final resting place of virtuous and heroic souls.

According to historian Tom Gilbert, author of “How Baseball Happened: The True Story Revealed,” the 1800s-era ballpark was “a kind of a laboratory of transportation, leisure and recreation. Disneyland, Central Park, Coney Island and the modern baseball park can all claim the Elysian Fields as an ancestor.”

Canopy is a reference to the comprehensive style in which the company oversees capital projects from initial brainstorming sessions to post-occupancy inspections, acting as an extension of a client’s internal operations and planning teams.

“Our team has a rich history of serving as innovators and thought leaders in the civic design space,” Weld said in a statement. “We are an umbrella across all aspects of the built environment, from architecture to sustainability and operations. We have a deep bench of experience across sports and venue types, and pride ourselves in providing inspired expertise for large-scale capital projects from start to finish. We look forward to many more years of creating vibrant spaces that build community and culture all across the globe.”

“Canopy is meant to evoke embracing community, team spirit, city building, all the things we love to bring together – and helps explain a broader focus than the baseball projects that define the work that Fran and I have done throughout our careers,” Smith said.

Although it will “manage large-scale capital projects from start to finish, through planning, design and execution,” Canopy will not be the lead designer for a project, Smith said. “We are continuing to advise, not acting as architect of record – work closely with a lot of firms, but we aren’t assuming that role.” 

‘We love Charm City!’ 

By establishing an East Coast base in addition to maintaining its Los Angeles office, company leaders say, Canopy will be close to major metropolitan areas where venue construction and special events are taking place or being contemplated. 

Out of a staff of 17, 13 are based in Baltimore. A Mississippi native who moved to Baltimore to work for the Orioles in the late 1980s and never lost her Southern drawl, Smith said she and Weld chose Baltimore for the company’s headquarters in part because that’s where her roots are, personally and professionally. She also notes that Baltimore is one of the Mid-Atlantic’s trending tech hubs and a welcoming location for start-up companies.

“Choosing Baltimore as a home for Canopy to grow means more than just reconnecting with our roots,” she said. “We are able to take advantage of the dynamic start-up energy in Baltimore and its convenient location for travel that allows us to work on projects that span coasts and continents, each with a unique and exciting set of opportunities and challenges…And of course we love Charm City!” 

Canopy’s current projects include working with the Pittsburgh Pirates on updates to PNC Park; working with the Worcester Red Sox on updates to Polar Park; and working with the Bowie Baysox and the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission on updates to Prince George’s Stadium. It also assisted the University of Florida on studies for future plans for athletic facilities and worked with Major League Baseball to program events such as its London games and All Star week. 

In an initiative to support the growth of women in sports, Canopy was chosen as one of the first nine companies named to join The Trailblazer Venture Studio. Trailblazer is a collaboration between Billie Jean King Enterprises, Elysian Park Ventures, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and R/GA Ventures.

“I could not be happier to see Canopy succeed and highlight the important perspective that women and women-led companies bring to the professional sports space,” said Ilana Kloss, CEO of Billie Jean King Enterprises, in a statement. “With Janet and Fran’s leadership, Canopy will help its clients reach their maximum potential.”

Canopy Team™ and Canopy™ are trademarks of Elysian Park Planning, LLC, a Delaware company. In addition to its website, the company has a presence on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. It is planning an Open House at Meadow Mill in December.

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.

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