Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How Can Professionals Engage Towards a Better Baltimore?

The business community collected money at its annual meeting, Senator Catherine Pugh collects for a fund to employ youth during the summer, Coppin University links the selection of a new president with opportunities to act in the community as an "education team leader".
Now, the work begins for all....the Regents, Dr. Maria Thompson, newly-elected President of CSU, the broader Campus Community and THE Entire Baltimore Community. With the recent events in Baltimore City, there is an opportunity for CSU to make a difference in many ways….., particularly as as an Education Team Leader.(From a Coppin University e-mail to University System Chancellor Kirwin today)
Rendering of Coppin University Science Center under construction
AIA, APA, linked up to present ideas from the Neighborhood Design Center, the University of Baltimore Neighborhoods Indicator Alliance and Maryland's Center for Smart Growth  to discuss "the Role of Planning and Design to Strengthen our Communities". Dan Rodricks has used almost all his Midday shows to discuss Baltimore's situation after the unrest and many others have stepped up to make a better Baltimore.
Join APA and AIA for a discussion on the current state of Baltimore’s neighborhoods, the opportunities available to its residents, and the work that is being done to improve them. 
The Baltimore Brew online newspaper uses the riots as a vehicle to repeat their quest to use the abandoned federal Metro West center as a vehicle to improve West Baltimore.
Like it or not, by owning the site, the GSA bought into the problems in the surrounding area. The feds shouldn’t be allowed just to walk away. (Gerald Neily, Baltimore Brew)
AIA Baltimore will convene a Working Group this afternoon to see how architects can engage towards a better Baltimore. Ideas range from involving Morgan State University architects in planners in a extensive study of urban conditions with white papers and presentations to dispatching one of the Urban Assistance Teams here, those RUDAT teams that the national AIA brings into areas of need and simple things like pro bono design and permit work for small businesses in need of professional services after having been damaged in the unrest.

I see a danger of starting from scratch when, in fact, many things are already underway and need to simply be continued, possibly with additional funds, more focus and added resolve.

Let's just consider North Avenue, arguably the most recognizable artery in Baltimore when it comes to disinvestment, impoverished communities and the events of 4/27 at Penn and North.
In fact, North Avenue boast abandonment, decay and dilapidation from one end to the other.

But lately it is dotted with symbols of change and progress: From the new Nursing School and the still under construction new science center of Coppin University and the Gateway Apartments on the west to MICA's extensive investments ranging from student housing, a student center new galleries and partnership in the rebuilding of old theaters in the center section of North Avenue to  the Great Blacks in Wax Museum and the new Apples & Oranges local food store on the east.

NDC has for a while shepherded an inclusive design process for a new streetscape of the center section of North Avenue. Johns Hopknis and the University of Baltimore are partners in the Central Baltimore Partnership which is rebuilding a large portion of central Baltimore with the Station North arts and entertainment district at its heart.
Leaders emerged from everywhere  –  not just community activists, but neighbors who leapt into action because they knew their community needed them. It was community building by people who never use the term “community building,” not from the top down, but from the grass roots up. The foundation’s been laid and we have to keep building it higher. Whether it’s simply talking to each other, working together, or strengthening organizations (at the block, neighborhood, and congregation level) that are the backbone of the city, we have to keep this momentum going.We also need to harness that energy to fix larger, more systemic problems. The resurgence of economic opportunity in the city and region must not blind us to the frustrations of our fellow Baltimoreans, who due to prejudice, and geographic and employment barriers, are isolated from those economic opportunities and living in areas of concentrated poverty. (Central Baltimore Partnership Newsletter)
It would seem to me that North Avenue would be the perfect geographic place to concentrate efforts of affordable housing, commercial revitalization, job creation, education, transportation and recreation until this once glorious spine will shine again.

While the energy of all the organizations I mentioned is a wonderful thing, the impetus and the direction for this energy needs to come from the various communities and from within. It cannot come from the outside as we have learned in New Orleans after Katrina where scores individuals and organizations motivated by of good will, grandstanding and self promotion descended on the city and often slowed the rebuild of the city rather than aided it.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Events of AIA:

APA, NDC and AIA: Perspectives on Baltimore:
The Role of Design and Planning to Strengthen our Communities, 5/20 5:30pm, Engineers Club
Topics will include the mapping of community opportunities and the current low levels of opportunity in certain neighborhoods across the City, the work that is being done in conjunctions with City residents and community groups to face the challenges caused by this lack of opportunity, and a discussion on how the City can improve in the future. Speakers for the evening will be Jennifer Goold, Director, Neighborhood Design Center; Chao Liu, Faculty Research Associate at the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education (NCSG) at the University of Maryland; and Seema Iyer, PhD, Director of the Real Estate and Economic Development (REED) program in the Merrick School of Business (MSB) and associate director for the Jacob France Institute (JFI) at the University of Baltimore.
The session will begin at 6:00 pm with an opportunity to network and socialize beforehand.  A cash bar and light hors d’oeuvres will be available during this time.

RSVP before May 15th please!
Email Lauren Good at
Tickets can be purchased through PayPal by visiting the APA Maryland website ( or by check (payable to APA Maryland) at the door.
AIA Baltimore Resilient Competition

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