South Lots

Transforming Whitelock Street

Reservoir Hill residents may have seen the orange fencing on the South Lots renovation project on the 900 block of Whitelock Street.  That fencing is protecting newly planted grass.  Residents have dreamed, planned, and worked since 2011 to create a multi-use green space that can be enjoyed by all generations.  Now we are in the last stage of those dreams becoming a reality. The new unofficial bus-stop waiting area is useable, as are the pathways.  The long awaited park will be fully usable after the seeding has proved established in late spring, at which time we’ll hold a ribbon-cutting party.

2014 Whitelock Harvest Fest participants in front of the hill on the South Lots. The hill is a burst of bold autumn color.

2014 Whitelock Harvest Fest participants in front of the hill on the South Lots. The hill is a burst of bold autumn color.

For background on this project, click on Transforming Whitelock Street.

To see how far we have gone together, take a look at the before and after shots of the main entrance to the park at Whitelock Street and Brookfield Avenue.

The "Bus Stop" at the corner of Whitelock Street and Brookfield Avenue under construction.

The same corner after construction!

We deeply thank the dozens of neighbors and friends who have devoted hundreds of volunteer hours to renovate this section of the old commercial center of Reservoir Hill; Healthy Neighborhoods, Baltimore Community Foundation, and Chesapeake Bay Trust for funding the effort; and Neighborhood Design Center for early on helping us turn dreams into plans. When the park is open, it will be a beautiful site for neighbors to gather.

To give you a sense of what has been done on the site:  With Joyce Kelley as project manager, we have:

  • Amended soil from approximately 4,200 square feet of the park and planted low mow lawn seed for the spring growth season.
  • Amended soil, and mulched approximately 4,800 square feet of the park for-mix of herbaceous native ornamental grasses, flowering perennials, and native trees and shrubs.
  • Planted 110 new shrubs, of which 95% are native to Maryland and  86% are edible) .
  • Planted 10 new native trees within park and tree pits, three of which are edible
  • Planted 600 mixed spring bulbs, daffodils, crocus, and tulips.
  • Reused culled bricks, stone, and concrete for edging behind gabion, brick and stone curbing at the “bus-stop,” and concrete slabs for stepping stones, stairs and seating.
  • Built 66 linear feet of wooden benches to cover gabions for seating and stage space.
  • Laid a top dressing of stone dust to the existing pathway.
  • Installed 600 square feet of permeable pavers at the corner of Whitelock Street and Brookfield Avenue to act as a new unofficial bus-stop,
  • Installed 15" of rock sub-base beneath permeable pavers to infiltrate storm water.
  • Installed two wooden benches
  • Installed 2 sets of metal poles for future signage.
  • Created a planting bed to frame the future entrance signage.

Looking forward to a beautiful spring on Whitelock Street!

The great granite wall of Whitelock

2014-04-19 14.05.02
2014-04-19 14.05.02

Byron and Chris enjoy the view from our in-progress rock wall (4/19/14)

When Whitelock gives you rocks, you make rock walls! This weekend we continued to scour our piles of granite to select the pieces with the best flat surfaces for mortaring together. Our hope is that the wall will be a comfortable place to sit and host upcoming neighborhood potluck dinners. We probably have about one more full day of work left to complete the project, but we've already gotten faster and more confident since starting last week.

2014-04-19 12.14.07-1
2014-04-19 12.14.07-1

We had great volunteer support this weekend, starting with Byron, our instructor from MICA's Social Design masters program, and continuing with Chris, Duwon, Toby, Everton, Andrea, Alan, and all the way to Ethan (seen below in the baby sling)! If you're interested in learning about future opportunities to help, we hope to sponsor these kinds of workdays almost every weekend this spring and summer.

2014-04-19 13.44.22
2014-04-19 13.44.22

It feels good to be back

Volunteers mix cement to construct a recycled granite wall (4/12/14)

After a long, cold winter, it feels good to get outside! It feels even better to be able to actually build things with all the rocks we've collected, instead of just moving them around from pile to pile. This past weekend we worked with two local masons to help train neighbors (and especially young people) how to build park benches and walls with pieces of granite, concrete, and brick dug up from the old foundations of the original Whitelock store buildings. Our goal for these park installations is not only to provide folks with comfortable seating near newly planted trees, but also to continue to develop community projects that are built by the same people who will use them.

We hope we'll have many more opportunities for neighbors to join us at upcoming workshops this spring and summer!

Thanks to Byron for helping teach us how to "butter our bread" with mortar:

And thanks to Will for teaching us how to use all the debris we've collected (even plastic bottles filled with dirt) to build bench forms at the park entryway:

We (kind of) made the New York Times!

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 12.30.14 PM
Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 12.30.14 PM

A few weeks ago, a reporter and photographer from The New York Times visited us on Whitelock St. to talk about what happens to neighborhoods when cities use large-scale demolition to create big blocks of vacant land. Though our quotes didn't quite make it into the final version (Page A15 of the 11/12/13 edition), some pictures were included in both the print edition and the on-line slide show!

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 12.23.29 PM
Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 12.23.29 PM
Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 12.22.05 PM
Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 12.22.05 PM

We hope this is just the beginning--we've invited the reporter to come back anytime, and we even tried to submit a follow-up letter-to-the-editor making the case for why neighborhood projects like this deserve more attention!

When a park actually starts to look like a park

2013-10-28 12.38.20
2013-10-28 12.38.20

The view from the top of Whitelock St. and Brookfield Ave. (10/29/13)

For a long time we've been talking about all the things that we still needed to accomplish on the Whitelock "South Lots/Community Park" site: grading, laying pathways, installing seating, etc. We've now reached the point where we're not just talking about what has to happen, but actually doing them! And for the first time ever, you can see the outlines of where the lawn will go, how tall the berm might be, and what the new bus stop corner lounge could look like.

2013.10.15
2013.10.15

[Grading the site (10/15/13)

2013.10.18
2013.10.18

Of course, that doesn't mean we're done with our seemingly never-ending quest to recycle every piece of granite and brick we found buried on the site. Our plan is to build seat benches and edging out of the salvaged materials over the next few weeks. Come join us every Saturday morning from now through the end of November!

2013-10-26 11.40.14
2013-10-26 11.40.14

Volunteers sifting through the rubble (10/26/13)

And don't forget: if you'd like to keep up with all the up-to-the-minute  developments on Whitelock St. and beyond, check out our Instagram @rhicgreen!

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 4.40.44 PM
Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 4.40.44 PM

Follow us on Instagram! @rhicgreen

IMG_1004
IMG_1004

Completing site grading at the Whitelock South Lots (10/15/13)

Do you ever find yourself idly scrolling through your phone and asking, "I wonder what is going on in Reservoir Hill right now?" Well, today is your luck day because you can now keep up with almost-instant photographic evidence of what's happening--whether it's bobcats on Whitelock St. or tree planting on Brookfield Ave.-- by following us on Instagram @rhicgreen.

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 4.47.44 PM
Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 4.47.44 PM

So next time you're taking a picture of a Reservoir Hill tree's beautiful fall colors (with or without additional photo filters!), share it with us. And if you've got ideas for hashtags-- #greenthehill, #green21217, #reshillgreen-- let us know!

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 4.51.40 PM
Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 4.51.40 PM

Making trees look and feel great in Reservoir Hill

IMG_0503
IMG_0503

Putting the finishing touches on the stained wooden tree well bench on Whitelock St. (7/25/13) Last month we published a post showing examples of tree wells from around Baltimore in the hope that we could find inspiration from other neighborhoods' attempts to protect and beautify trees.  Through our research, we learned that there are a few ideas that we might like to copy (stained wood coloring, comfortable seats, durable construction materials) and a few things (sealed boxes holding high soil levels, sharp corners, and closed on all four sides) that probably are not good for either trees or humans.

IMG_0517
IMG_0517

Will builds stone tree well pillars out of Whitelock St. stone (7/30/13)

Since then, we've been testing new tree well designs on Whitelock St. that attempt to create durable and attractive tree well guards while reducing supply costs by using re-cycled wood, stone, and brick from local sources. These designs were each produced for an average of $150, which represents significant price savings as compared to other "low-cost" tree wells that can cost $500 or more. Will Grenier, a recent Maryland Institute College of Art graduate, designed and installed all the tree wells with assistance from RHIC volunteers.

IMG_0749
IMG_0749

(9/10/13)

IMG_0748
IMG_0748

(9/10/13)

We're also interested in creating  tree wells that do more than just surround trees. For example, what if tree wells could also serve as a photo album? Check out the results:

Before:

IMG_0497
IMG_0497

(7/23/13)

After:

IMG_0616
IMG_0616

(8/9/13)

This represents just the first of what we hope will be several waves of new tree wells. Going forward we'll continue to test new and improved designs, so look out for new developments in a tree well near you!

IMG_0507
IMG_0507

Mike installs a tree well fence near John Eager Howard Recreation Center (7/26/13)

The moment we've all been waiting for on Whitelock St.

IMG_0587
IMG_0587

Final excavation and grading begins on the South Lots (8/5/13)

After a long and rainy couple of weeks (and months), professional excavators and grading equipment have finally arrived on Whitelock Street! Our hope is that the entire site will be cleared of debris shortly so that the final grading plan can be implemented as soon as possibly.  Over the next few weeks (and months), there will be many opportunities for folks to help us start installing the park features (including pathways, seating, and plantings) that so many neighbors have helped contribute their ideas toward during the design process.

Most recent site plan prepared by our Neighborhood Design Center volunteers:

The still-to-be--named site will feature space for community events, shaded seating near the bus stop, fruit trees, and expanded space for Whitelock Community Farm to continue growing produce for the neighborhood.  We are excited to re-cycle many of the original foundation pieces from the old Whitelock St. storefronts into seating, berm structures, and edging.

A reminder of where we're starting:

IMG_0585
IMG_0585

(8/5/13)

And where we're going:

Whitelock Park_Birds Eye Facing West
Whitelock Park_Birds Eye Facing West
Whitelock Park_Ground 1
Whitelock Park_Ground 1

Many thanks to all our neighbors for their support and patience over the long course of this project. We've come a long way since we began discussing ideas for the South Lots in 2010, and we're looking forward to sharing this beautiful space with you very soon!

2012 Year in Review: South Lots

IMAG1303
IMAG1303

Cleaning up tools after a community work day on Whitelock St. (12/1/12)

We may not have too many more sunny weekend workday mornings for a while, so this might be a good time to look back on how far we've come. In 2012, with support from Healthy Neighborhoods, Inc., more than 90 people have helped haul debris, build berms, and design the site plan for the South Lots project. We estimate that nearly 1,000 volunteer hours have gone into the project in just the past year. We're not quite done yet, since we still have to plant the lawn and install park features in 2013, but we're getting closer to a reisdent-designed and resident-built park to enjoy.

Before (10/5/12):

IMAG1069
IMAG1069
IMAG1307
IMAG1307

After (12/1/12):

How did we get there?

IMAG1300
IMAG1300

Picking up all the little bits of debris (12/1/12)

IMAG1295
IMAG1295

Loading up wheelbarrows (12/1/12)

IMAG1297
IMAG1297

Carrying the big pieces (12/1/12)

IMAG1289
IMAG1289

Even the heavy ones (12/1/12)

IMAG1325
IMAG1325

Placing the pieces into a rock-wall supporting the berm (12/1/12)

IMAG1298
IMAG1298

Then, shovel (12/1/12)

IMAG1326
IMAG1326

Shovel (12/1/12)

IMAG1328
IMAG1328

Shovel so much that it becomes fun (12/1/12)

Fall Clean Up: 10am-4pm Saturday 10/27

IMAG1139
IMAG1139

Volunteers rake the berm along the alley-side of the Whitelock South Lots (10/13/12)

What: Fall Community Clean Up

When: 10am-4pm Saturday October 27th

Where: Anywhere in the neighborhood!

But if you'd like to join on-going projects, including preparing garden beds for winter, clearing debris at the South Lots project, and kicking-off the effort to convert the vacant lot at Linden Ave. and Brooks Ln. into a new community-designed space, you can come to Whitelock St. and Brookfield Ave. We're also hoping to have a City roll-off dumpster on Whitelock.

How: You can pick up tools, including paper trash bags, rakes, shovels, brooms, gloves, from RHIC's Tool Bank anytime this week. Just come by (2001 Park Ave.) or call 410-225-7547.