In 2019, Unity@Park Avenue was hatched as a vision to transform the south side of the intersection of Park and North Ave. into an appealing space for pedestrians and bus riders as well as an attractive gateway to Bolton Hill and Reservoir Hill.
The vision coalesced around a three-part project of painting murals, renovating the lot at 1743 Park Ave., and reimagining the design of the bus shelter. The lot itself is under the jurisdiction of the City Department of Housing and Community Development, which has been a supportive partner in the project, as has the Maryland Department of Transportation.
Mural artist Ernest Shaw was enlisted in 2020 to design and paint the murals with the themes of community and unity. BHCA hosted virtual community input sessions for the murals’ design and served as the fiscal sponsor for funds raised from grants and private contributions. With logistical support from Baltimore-based Mural Masters, the murals were painted on row house walls on either side of Park Avenue and dedicated in the fall of 2021.
Meanwhile, BHCA engaged Baltimore-based landscape architecture firm EnviroCollab, to create a new design for the lot below the east mural as part of the second phase of the project. In 2020, EnviroCollab hosted two virtual visioning sessions to hear from community members about how they would like to see the space transformed. It then produced a design sketch and implementation budget to renovate the lot.
The design sketch was the basis for a grant recently awarded by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to create an engineered design plan, which would provide the technical specifications and permitting to implement the design, contingent on implementation funding. The engineered design plan will be produced by local landscape engineering firm CityScape, along with EnviroCollab, in 2024.
Because of the large expense and funder requirements of renovating the lot, the Midtown Community Fund, the 501c3 nonprofit connected to the Midtown Community Benefits District, is the fiscal sponsor for the engineered design and implementation. Midtown services the trash bin on the lot on a daily basis and has been instrumental in organizing trash pick-ups and volunteer planting opportunities in the existing brown brick and concrete planters.
Six students in a MICA art studio class in the fall of 2020 produced designs for a reimagined bus shelter. The students presented their sketches to community members at a virtual meeting and may be re-engaged when the third phase of the project is ready to move forward after the lot renovation.
Updates on the Unity@Park Avenue project will be shared through The Bulletin and other community communication channels. If you’d like to make a donation toward implementing the lot or the bus shelter redesign, you can donate here.
–Alex Aaron, Chris Kingsley and David Nyweide