The Roland Park Community Foundation has purchased Baltimore Country Club land to become Hillside Park.

A new 20-acre park is coming to North Baltimore after a neighborhood group successfully negotiated the purchase of land belonging to the historic Baltimore Country Club.

The Roland Park Community Foundation, a non-profit organization working to improve green spaces in the community, led efforts to purchase the club land to transform it into an open community space. The foundation beat out private developers to secure the purchase.

“There aren’t many developed cities around the country that are developing new parks, and yet the need for parks has never been so intense,” said Mary Page Michel, who chairs the foundation. “Parks are restorative. They are a place to clear your head; they’re a place also to gather. There’s just never been a time that we need that more than we do today.”

The property, soon to be named Hillside Park, runs along Falls Road across from the athletic fields of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Western High School.

The transaction was announced on Wednesday, about seven months after the deadline the country club set for accepting bids. The parcel sold for $9 million. The clubhouse at the top of the hill on Club Road and an adjacent 12 acres are not a part of the deal.

Michel, who has been leading efforts to turn this property into a park for more than two decades, cried with joy when signing the documents.

“We always knew this was a David versus Goliath battle,” she said of the bid’s competition with “deep-pocketed real estate developers.”

Foundation officials reached out to dozens of community organizations and conservation and park groups across the city and region, holding more than 100 virtual and in-person meetings on their vision.

“It was a difficult negotiation,” she added. “I think in the end it is the best thing for BCC and for the community.”

More than 70 percent of the acquisition funds were raised ahead of the deal. The community foundation solicited gifts between February and mid-May, when purchase proposals were due.

“People stepped up in ways that we could never have expected. It was just a real phenomenal story,” Michel said. “During the pandemic, people spent more time outdoors. When we came along with this idea, people got it right away and really jumped in.”

More than three dozen donors made gifts larger than $50,000.

State lawmakers approved an additional $250,000 in Program Open Space funds that would assist with the purchase, with the funds going for an athletic field for use by students at nearby Western High School and Baltimore Polytechnic Institutes, according to state Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenburg.

“Growing up in Baltimore, I sled down this hill, and I graduated from City College,” Rosenburg said in an email. “It is a pleasure to make this land available for residents of Roland Park and the broader community, even Poly students.”

A community campaign is underway to raise the balance needed to complete the transaction. A nondisclosure agreement prevented additional fundraising efforts after the bid was submitted in May, but the group plans to resume those activities now that an agreement is public.

“The interest from potential buyers in Baltimore Country Club’s property was robust and we are glad that we were able to come to terms that are agreeable to both the Club and the Community Foundation,” Marty Brunk, president of Baltimore Country Club said in a joint statement with the foundation.

The Roland Park property represents one of the last pieces of the original home of the Baltimore Country Club, which opened in 1898 and was the first 18-hole course in Maryland.

The club later purchased land near Lutherville, built two courses there, and closed the original course after selling all land on the west side of Falls Road for schools.

In September, 2020 the Baltimore Country Club invited the Roland Park Community Foundation to work on a bid on this remaining 20-acre property it planned to sell.

A group of Roland Park residents has succeeded in efforts to buy a portion of Baltimore Country Club and create a park. This image shows a site plan for Hillside Park.

“We need to keep getting the message out about the vision for this park,” said Anne Stuzin, communications manager for the foundation. “We’ve got some more money to raise, but the fun part is really going to be getting the input from the public which will then help us to further define it.”

Hillside Park would feature preserved natural landscapes and walking paths designed in the style of Frederick Law Olmsted, famed landscape architect best known for designing New York’s Central Park.

The group says future patrons can expect curvilinear paths similar to the surrounding Roland Park neighborhood. There will be “surprises around corners,” a key feature to Olmstedian designs. It’ll be mostly passive space, but include some recreational space.

It could feature a playground, an amphitheater, and sports fields and courts, but officials noted that the park rendering is just a concept.

Plans will be updated following community input, slated for next year. The group hopes the park could open as early as 2024.

The community foundation says transforming the space into a public park is aligned with the original 1890s vision for the land as an open community recreation space.

“It’s a gift for generations, not just for us,” Michel said. “I can’t imagine what it’s going to look like in 100 years and who’s going to be using it, but I know it’ll be a park and it’ll be there forever, which is just a great, great contribution.”