Following in Philadelphia’s footsteps with its LandCare program, Baltimore is undertaking a lot-greening effort along the Frederick and Pennsylvania Avenue corridors.
The Lots to Love program will convert 47 vacant lots into green spaces cared for by residents. The Department of Planning and the Office of Sustainability said the lots, located in Upton, Boyd-Booth, Shipley Hill and Carrollton Ridge, will be used for community events, and cared for twice a month through October by neighbors who receive training from workforce development organizations.
Kim Knox, greening coordinator for the Baltimore Green Network within the Department of Planning, said in an email that the program “works with the residents and neighborhood associations on what they want to see with the vacant lots.” As an example, she said, one group hopes to place planters and benches in an empty space; another wants to install a pit for horseshoes.
Residents picked the lots based on their proximity to schools, rec centers, retail centers and visibility.
Cynthia Tensley, president of Carrollton Ridge Community Association, called Lots to Love a “great idea.” Her Southwest Baltimore neighborhood and nearby Shipley Hill will focus on converting a handful of lots within the INSPIRE area for Frederick Elementary.
Among the ideas they have: a memorial garden honoring those lost to neighborhood gun violence, and a garden with flowering plants placed between old, leftover railroad ties, “so if people come into the neighborhood, there’s this pop of beauty they will see instead of just trash.”
Knox said the budget for Lots to Love is $50,000, funded from the Planning Department’s budget for greening.
Other cities have been able to reduce crime and improve health outcomes over time with similar efforts, research shows. In Youngstown, Ohio, a 2015 study found lower rates of property and violent crime around certain treated lots. In Philadelphia, a study published last year showed residents living near greened lots in neighborhoods near the poverty line reported reduced gun violence, burglaries and overall crime.
In another nod to Philly, Knox said they decided to focus particularly on Frederick and Pennsylvania avenues based on the City of Brotherly Love’s success promoting greening efforts along major corridors.
She also said Frederick Avenue residents and neighborhood groups had asked for help with specific vacant lots for years, and that Pennsylvania Avenue is on of the the city’s designated areas for its “New Era of Neighborhood Investment” plan. Pennsylvania Avenue Main Street helped Planning staff identify specific lots to target along the thoroughfare, she said.
Lots to Love is part of the city’s Green Network Plan adopted last September. It calls for eliminating blight in underserved areas and creating a network of green spaces and parks throughout the city, with a focus on sections of East, West, Central and Southwest Baltimore.
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