Park’s Neighborhood Revitalization Club Helps Secure Spruce-Up Grant for Lot Transformations

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In response to the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray in spring 2015, a group of Upper School students volunteered with the Community Lot Team of Civic Works, a community service organization. Recently, students became interested in participating more fully in the process of transforming vacant lots into vibrant green spaces, and turned again to Civic Works.

The students, who formed a group called the Neighborhood Revitalization Club, were invited to see the lots and meet neighbors in late 2015. They began attending strategy meetings with Barclay residents, community organizers, and Civic Works to discuss community engagement, design, and fundraising opportunities. This larger collective focused its efforts on a series of contiguous vacant lots in Barclay. A rectangular space dotted with patches of grass, construction debris, and household trash, the lot is surrounded by houses and businesses on all sides.

In design meetings, residents and their young children voiced concerns about the ongoing issue of trash — often commercial (a resident reported a number of toilets were recently left there) — a lack of lighting, and whether the new green space might encourage loitering. The conversation led to a design that includes a walking path, shade trees, planting beds, seating, a large open space, and artful barriers that will prevent vehicles from accessing the lot. 

Students participated in the grant process to pay for the lot revitalization, attending planning meetings, writing sections of the proposal, and revising the final grant seeking more than $15,000. In early May, the group learned that their proposal had been fully funded with a Spruce Up Grant of the Central Baltimore Partnership, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and Johns Hopkins University. Morgan Soudry ’16, a Park student who became a leader for the project, appreciated the opportunity to be a part of the collaboration:

“Even though this is only the beginning, I feel like so much has happened,” she said. “Revitalizing the lot is amazing, but getting to know the people who live next door to it, having the opportunity to work side by side with them, and seeing their community thrive is the most beautiful part of this experience.”

In a separate fundraising effort, the students, themselves, raised over $8,000 to contribute to the project. The success of the partnership has also sparked new curricular connections for the school: this fall, Upper School students will design and build objects for the neighborhood in a new visual arts course created to support the transformation of vacant lots in Baltimore.

While more hard work lies ahead, Upper School students will continue working alongside their community partners as the lot is transformed over the next year.

Photo Caption: Park students strategize and discuss design plans with Barclay community members.

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