Unity@Park Avenue: an update on revitalizing Park and North Avenues

The three-part revitalization project called Unity@Park Avenue will bring colorful murals to the bleached walls facing North Avenue, transform a sterile lot into a greener, more hospitable northern entrance to Bolton Hill, and reimagine the bus stop at the edge of the lot.  The project has raised roughly $15,000 so far through a combination of private contributions, matching grant dollars from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, funds from the Abell Foundation and a contribution from BHCA.

Baltimore’s Ernest Shaw is the mural artist, and Baltimore-based Shawn James with Mural Masters is the project manager.  Shaw shared two rounds of design sketches capturing the theme of community and unity at two virtual community input sessions this summer after an extensive outreach effort to residents in Reservoir Hill.  The murals have received approval from the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP).

BHCA board members recently approved spending on two concept designs for the lot by landscape design firm EnviroCollab.  The designs will be shared with the community through two feedback sessions.  The final design will be the vision for the space in grant applications to implement it.  In the meantime, flowers have been planted in the existing planter beds to dress them.  Sunflowers in particular have been in bloom in late summer and have added a much-needed splash of color to the lot.

The bus shelter will be the focus of MICA Professor Michael Maggio’s fall architectural design studio.  “MICA is very excited to be collaborating with the Bolton Hill community on this project.  It’s an opportunity for the students and the community to come together and propose something truly unique for the lot at West North Ave and Park that meets the needs of all those who use the bus shelter,” said Professor Maggio. 

Community and storytelling are the central themes of the studio.  In developing their proposals, Maggio said students will address basic problems of light, circulation, materials, construction and structure and learn to find creative solutions to address social context.  The nine students in the studio will each create a new design for the shelter with the intention of sharing them with the community for feedback, which should lead to a design selected for implementation through grant funding.  There will be virtual opportunities for community input starting at the end of October.

BHCA serves as the fiscal sponsor for the project.  Its total cost will depend on the extent of renovations to the lot and bus shelter but will probably be at least $45,000.  Fundraising for the project continues, including some outstanding grant applications.  To learn more or donate, go to www.parkaveunity.com.

— David Nyweide and Chris Kingsley