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It Is Easy To Be Green

Baltimore Housing

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s Vacants to Value Initiative aims to reduce the blight of vacant houses in the city by giving people incentives to buy them and fix them up.  The houses that can’t be fixed are demolished, leaving gaping empty lots.

City officials are trying to beautify those lots  by offering incentives to community groups and others to turn them into “green spaces.”

Green Ideas For Green Spaces

Last fall, for example, the city, the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the Environmental Protection Agency awarded seven different groups close to $300,000 to construct designs for vacant lots entered in the Growing Green Design competition.

The groups – Jane’s House of Inspiration, Hollins Roundhouse Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, two groups from Civic Works, Real Food Farm and the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation --displayed their ideas the Cylburn Arboretum.  Those ideas included a pocket park, a flower factory, a fruit garden and a community recreation space that can be used for public performances..

The winners have until mid-2015 to make their design ideas a reality.

The competition was part of the launch of Rawlings-Blake’s Growing Green Initiative.

The Initiative

Under the initiative, the city retains ownership of the vacant lots, but community groups take over caring for them.

“The greening initiatives range from urban agriculture to storm water management to creating more urban trees and tree forests,” says Jenny Guillaume, who is coordinating the initiative.

Officials wanted groups to think big, so they created “The Green Pattern Book” to offer suggestions on how to turn the lots of different sizes green and how people can work with the city to make their ideas come to life.

“[It] helps city agencies or the citizen to look at a vacant lot in their neighborhood and try to figure out a greening strategy for that lot,” says Guillaume, who adds the goal of the book is to get the creative juices flowing.

Simple Green Process

An individual or a group that comes up with an idea for an empty lot should first go to Baltimore Housing’s website  to find out if the city controls the lot, if its available and to apply for a license to maintain the lot.

The process is simple.  The applications go directly to Anika Middleton, asset manager for Baltimore Housing’s Land Resource Office.

“Once the application is submitted…it’s [takes] approximately seven to fourteen days [for review],” says Middleton, “You’ll receive a response whether the vacant lot is available or you’re able to receive the license.”

The Adopt-a-Lot program began in 1973 under then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer when 1,300 vacant lots were available.

Baltimore Housing took control of the program when Vacants to Value launched in 2010.  At the time, only 100 lots were adopted.  Since the agency took over, more than 1,000 lots have been adopted.  More than 4,200 remain available.