Mayor Breaks Ground on Vacant Lot Restoration Program

West Baltimore neighborhood will replace concrete and asphalt with trees, wild flowers, and vegetable gardens to help reduce polluted runoff and turn an eyesore into an asset

(BALTIMORE, MD)—Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin helped break ground today on a project that will turn an unsightly vacant lot on Riggs Avenue in the Bridgeview/Greenlawn community of West Baltimore into a pocket park for the neighborhood. The project is the first of a series of such lot renovations around the city that are winners of the Growing Green Design Competition: Vacant Lots Transformed, a partnership between Baltimore City, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. This program, which is administered by Chesapeake Bay Trust, was created as an opportunity for community groups, design firms, non-profit, and private partners to showcase innovative ideas for stabilizing and re-using vacant land while also reducing stormwater and providing community benefits such as urban agriculture, parks, and trees.

"This project shows how the Growing Green Initiative is working to support multiple goals of my administration including blight elimination, stabilizing and strengthening neighborhoods, reducing stromwater runoff, and most importantly transforming a liability of a vacant lot into an asset for Baltimore City," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "The Growing Green Design Competition has been successful to generate innovative ideas and now we see the beginning of these projects becoming a reality."

Over the coming days and weeks 10,000 square-feet of concrete and asphalt will be removed from the former apartment building site on Riggs Avenue. It will be replaced with topsoil, trees, wild flowers, pathways, and raised beds for herbs and fresh vegetables.

"Rain gardens" in the new park will not only provide greenery where before was gray pavement, they will also help reduce polluted runoff from fouling nearby creeks and ultimately the Inner Harbor.

"This project is one of the ways EPA is working with local leaders and organizations to make a visible difference in communities," said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. "We're turning the vision of the design competition into action to confront the environmental challenges of stormwater runoff and climate change while enhancing the beauty and economic vitality of this neighborhood."

The Riggs Avenue project is a partnership of 11 organizations which seized the opportunity to create a neighborhood asset where there was once a vacant, unused lot. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), teamed with the Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation (CHCDC), the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, the Bridgeview/Greenlawn Community Association, Biohabitats, WGL Energy, and others to design the renovation. 

Many urban centers are faced with significant challenges posed by vacant lots. Vacant areas can be unaesthetic, bring down property values, have human health and safety impacts, and negatively impact communities. The Bridgeview/Greenlawn Enhancement Project is a demonstration project to showcase the innovative and cost-effective methods for managing stormwater while also using the Green Pattern Book to create new community spaces.

1st Impressions and Civic Works will construct the new site using some local labor. WGL Energy donated the trees, shrubs and wildflowers through its Carbon Reduction Fund made possible by customers that choose CleanSteps Carbon Offsets to reduce carbon emissions. Nearby Mosher Elementary School, another partner, can use the renovated lot as a teaching area.

The city is under a federal requirement to reduce its polluted runoff from hard surfaces like roads and parking lots by 20 percent by 2019. Renovating the Riggs Avenue lot is a demonstration project that will show how this can be done economically using vacant lots, local labor, and community support. CBF, in cooperation with CHCDC, will use this experience to replicate the project on other abandoned lots in West Baltimore, further reducing runoff but also creating new, valuable green spaces for the communities in the area.

"This is the type of on-the-ground project that we at the Trust are so proud to be a part of," said Jana Davis, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust. "It's here, in our communities, where we see the positive impact of partnerships like the one we have had with EPA and Baltimore City, and with Chesapeake Bay Foundation as a project lead. This project will not only remove unneeded impervious surface, which will treat stormwater, it also will provide a wonderful space for the community. That has been the goal of our investments."

"We are grateful for the support of the Mayor's office, the EPA, and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and are pleased to be one of the winners of the Growing Green Design Competition," said Terry Cummings, director of CBF's Baltimore Initiative. "We hope that this project will, in a small way, help to reinvigorate the Bridgeview/Greenlawn neighborhood. West Baltimore sorely needs these kinds of efforts, and we look forward to working with our partners to create more and bigger projects based on the Green Patterns Book to reduce polluted stormwater and beautify communities."

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