This Baltimore Alley Makeover Should Be On HGTV

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Before: drab cement. After: A word-of-art leading to positive community outcomes.
Before: Drab cement. After: A work-of-art. Credit: Robbyn Lewis, Chris Beall and Darin Hughes.

Does your Baltimore alley need a little love? Too much trash and grit? Check out Patterson Park’s gorgeous “Green Alley” and get inspired. Learn how your alley community can be transformed from cement to a functional work-of-art that keeps trash where it’s supposed to be, in trash cans, not in the Inner Harbor.

Good News is Hard to Come By

Believe me when I share that it’s much easier to find bummer “green” news than it is to hit on positive eco-stories. But, Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability is making the job a bit easier with their new Every Story Counts effort. Everyday Baltimoreans fill out an online form detailing the individual actions they’re taking to make our town cleaner and greener. Every Story Counts is a gold mine of passion, commitment and creativity.

The tweet below hit my twitter feed, and I had to investigate.

Baltimore Office of Sustainability's #Every Story Count twitter feed featuring Robbyn Lewis, the leader of Patterson Park's Green Alley.
Baltimore Office of Sustainability’s #Every Story Counts tweet featuring Robbyn Lewis, Patterson Park’s Green Alley community leader.

Alley Makeover: Before

Robbyn Lewis lives in Patterson Park, a Baltimore City community on the upswing. Lewis has been an active community leader and has led many beautification projects over the years. Lewis’s home shares an alley with 48 neighbors.

“Alleys are unique to city living. They’re an intimate place. They can also be an intense place because we’re sharing this tight space.” Lewis said. “We had made strides in improving our alley. Over the years we hosted several city alley clean ups. We had won a Baltimore Community Foundation grant to fund recycling education and to get new recycling bins. We have planted hundreds of trees along our streets, and even decorated the alley with lights.”

As Lewis explains, “Our alley was the last frontier. In the past decade many younger professionals moved into our area. We finally had a critical mass of action-oriented homeowners. More importantly, we were also motivated by our love for Baltimore City.”

Baltimore's-own artists John Collins, Briget Cimino and Adam Stab painted several alley murals.
Baltimore’s-own artists John Collins, Briget Cimino and Adam Stab painted several alley murals. Credit: Robbyn Lewis, Chris Beall and Darin Hughes.

Alley Makeover: After

Lewis and her neighbors knew they wanted to go big – artwork, murals, and alley gates. And big the alley is, 4,800 square feet. Larger projects take a lot of legwork and people. So Lewis teamed up with Leanna Wetmore, a Baltimore Waterfront Partnership Community Organizer.  With the mission to make the Inner Harbor swimmable by 2020, the Waterfront Partnership, a public and private non-profit collaboration, focuses on strategies and projects that keep trash, dirt, sewage, and detritus, out of our Inner Harbor.

Wetmore and Lewis joined forces and one-year later, after hard work to obtain funding, permits and plans, they went big. They painted the entire alley! Eighty kids, homeowners, and renters cleaned, scraped and painted. Visit Green Alley’s Facebook page and watch the 2-minute aerial video to see the final creation. 

Local artists created beautiful mural installations that visually remind all neighbors that everything that touches Green Alley, as it’s been dubbed, flows into city storm drains. In the Baltimore-area, all storm drains send untreated and unfiltered water, muck, litter, chemicals, and toxins into the Inner Harbor.

Hats off to the Green Alley’s funding partners: Waterfront Partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative, Parks & People, Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, Devon Creek Foundation and MECU.

The storm drain is a sea turtle! Spaces like this will inspire people to tend to an alley, not dump in it.
The storm drain is a sea turtle! Spaces like this will inspire people to tend to an alley, not dump in it. Credit: Robbyn Lewis. Chris Beall and Darin Hughes.

Want to Learn More?

Step 1: Check out Office of Sustainability’s Trash and Stormwater guide.

Step 2: Study the Waterfront Partnership’s Trash Free Neighborhoods guide.

Laurel Peltier
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