Baltimore City: Green Spaces

baltimore green spaces

Baltimore City may not always be perceived in the most positive light—it was famously referred to as a  “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” in the news—but there is a reason it is affectionately known as “Charm City.” Baltimore was originally nicknamed “Charm City” as part of a 1970s advertising campaign featuring marble steps, steamed crabs, and the like. Even though “Charm City” never became the city’s official slogan, the nickname has endured. There is much to love about the City of Baltimore, and that includes its efforts towards greening its neighborhoods. For example:

  • In September 2018, the Baltimore City Planning Commission adopted a plan called the “Baltimore Green Network.” This is “a plan to connect the city’s parks and green spaces with paths and mobility lanes, improve and protect natural habitat, create new parks in underserved areas, and improve the maintenance of vacant lots.”
  • The Baltimore City Department of Housing & Community Development launched an “Adopt-A-Lot” program in 2010. This program allows neighborhood residents, businesses, or groups of neighbors to take responsibility for a city-owned vacant lot to create a community space that can be enjoyed by all. That community space could include, for example, a garden, a meditation space, or a chess park. The city provides a map online that shows which city-owned lots are available for adoption. There is no adoption fee. If the vacant lot is adopted for the purpose of a garden, the city provides an opportunity for the adopter(s) to complete an application for water access for a reasonable flat rate of $120.00 for each growing season. The Adopt-A-Lot program within the Power in Dirt initiative touts the following successes:
    • 737 lots have been adopted
    • 80% of these lots have been revitalized and maintained
    • 34% of these lots are growing food
    • There has been a35% reduction in requests to clean up trash on blocks with adopted lots

After five years, the lots that have been greened can become part of the Baltimore Green Space land trust to allow them to be retained as permanent green spaces.

  • Baltimore City also has a program called the “Side Yard Program.” If a homeowner’s property borders an overgrown, city-owned side yard that is less than 15 feet in width and incapable of independent development, the city provides a fixed, low-cost way for that homeowner to buy the side yard. These lots can then be used for a variety of purposes, including a garden, parking pad, deck, landscape, or simply existing property expansion. No matter the use, it will be an improvement over a vacant lot and serve to beautify the neighborhood. Adjacent homeowners can apply for up to two side yards, with priority given to owners whose properties are owner-occupied. An owner-occupant can apply for the side lot, the cost of which is $500 per 1500 SF. The cost to a non-owner-occupant is $1000 per 1500 SF.
  • In March 2011, the City issued an RFQ from farmers to participate in the development of certain city-owned vacant/underutilized properties for the purpose of urban farming. One MIT professor who studied this effort concluded, “Baltimore is proactively demonstrating a commitment to and desire for agriculture within its city limits.”
  • In June 2019, the Baltimore City Department of Planning and the Office of Sustainability’s Baltimore Green Network announced the launch of their “Lots to Love” initiative.  The purpose of this program is to work with nonprofit workforce development organizations to transform 47 vacant lots in the Upton, Boyd-Booth, Shipley Hill, and Carrollton Ridge neighborhoods into green spaces for community events and gatherings.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Trust, in partnership with various entities, including the City of Baltimore Department of Public Works, recently sought applications for its “Outreach and Restoration Grant Program.” This grant program was open to various categories of applicants, including community and homeowner associations. The grant program is intended to fund programs that are outreach and/or restoration projects relating to enhancing communities and improving natural resources. Example restoration projects include tree planting projects for urban areas and greening and reclaiming vacant lots.
  • Baltimore City has established greening resource hubs called GROW Centers (Green Resources & Outreach for Watersheds). While the Spring 2020 GROW Center pop-ups had to be cancelled on account of the pandemic, GROW Centers typically have provided free and/or low-cost trees, mulch, plants, and other materials. There have also been free workshops on everything from installing rain gardens to composting.

Baltimore City’s commitment to greening the city is one element that should factor favorably into the decision to invest in real estate in Baltimore.