#LoveThatLot: A Valentine’s celebration for neighborhood revitalization champions in Baltimore

February 19, 2016

#LoveThatLot Photo CROPThis year, as part of our Valentine’s Day #LoveThatLot campaign, we were lucky to have the chance to visit a revitalized vacant lot in Baltimore’s Barclay neighborhood and bring some much-deserved attention to the work of the amazing community members who helped transform the space.

Though it was freezing cold, staff from Community Progress, Community Law Center, and Greater Greenmount Community Association gathered together at the site of a community garden to celebrate and learn more about the hard work of Ms. Althea Ward, the determined community resident who championed the garden project and continues to maintain it, as well as Ms. Lottie Sneed, a community organizer from Strong City Baltimore who was vital to enlisting Civic Works, a local nonprofit, to design for the garden’s landscaping.

BEFORE (Credit: Community Law Center)

BEFORE (Credit: Community Law Center)

Before their efforts, the block was home to several vacant buildings that allegedly housed drug activity and squatters and were eventually set ablaze by arsonists. Then, after the city tore down the structures, the now-empty lots became an illegal dumping ground for all manner of debris.

That all changed, though, after Ms. Ward, with the help of other community residents and Greater Greenmount Community Association, was able to secure a grant from Parks and People Foundation to turn the blighted lot into a lovely community garden. Within about a year or so she was able to transform a major public nuisance into a vibrant community asset. You can see before and after photos to the right. In the spring and summertime, when the gardens come alive, the garden adds a sense of vitality to a neighborhood still struggling with vacancy and abandonment. It is a reflection of deep-felt community pride, reminding everyone who walks by that there are community residents who are committed to making this neighborhood a better place to live for everyone.

AFTER (Credit: Community Law Center)

AFTER (Credit: Community Law Center)

Special thanks to the Baltimore-based Community Law Center (CLC) for bringing this project to our attention. CLC represents Greater Greenmount Community Association in a major lawsuit against the irresponsible owner of one of the originally blighted buildings.

When asked about the project and why it should be held up as an example, Robin Jacobs of CLC responded saying, “By taking action against irresponsible owners and by transforming this vacant space into a green space, the community sends a strong message of hope that is very worthy of sharing. Their collective efforts should be a shining example of what is best about Baltimore’s communities and why we love to work beside them.”

This Public Display of Affection was part of a national Valentine’s Day #LoveThatLot campaign to highlight local leaders and organizations who have transformed vacant properties into community assets. More information on #LoveThatLot can be found at communityprogress.org/LoveThatLot.

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