Love to Garden? Try City Farms

By Bill Hamilton; photos by Don Palmer, Ron Gray, and Maria Wawer

Want to raise your own herbs and vegetables, but find the wee plot behind your house too small and the sunshine blocked by your neighbors’ lush trees and brick walls?

Baltimore City Farms, a Recreation and Parks program, may be your path to gardening bliss, offering garden plots for rent to City residents. Several Bolton Hill residents already participate, including Don Palmer, Ron Gray and Maria Wawer.


For $30 (plus a one-time application fee of $10), residents can rent a 10’ x 16’ garden plot for the growing season in one of several locations around town. Plots are fenced and in secure spots with access to water and sunshine unhindered by trees or buildings. Two adjacent plots may be had for $60. The city provides water hoses, wood chips and mulch. City farmers share community tools and wheelbarrows. Some locations have raised beds in wooden frames.  

In the 21217 zip code City Farm gardens are available at Druid Hill Park and at Bruce Street Park, in the 1300 block of N. Bruce Street. Nearly a dozen City Farm sites with 800 plots altogether are scattered in parks throughout the city.

For further information contact Harold McCray, City Farms coordinator at Recreation and Parks Department, 410-396-4850 or BCRP.CityFarms@baltimorecity.govApplications and additional information are available online.  Apply by the March 1 deadline and be ready to plant seeds and sets as soon as the weather warms up.

New Bulletin Production Team Takes the Reins

Read all about itThe Bolton Hill Bulletin’s new production team gained its sea legs in January, working well together to produce this issue. One difference you’ll see right away: a new, easier-to-navigate list format for the Bulletin Calendar, now under the charge of our new Calendar Editor, Bobbi Schilling.

Kevin Morris has joined Brian Causey to work behind the scenes on the tech aspects of our new website, as well as updating other organizational tools, like email. And our new Business Manager, Bill Hamilton, has been connecting with our sponsors to obtain their support for another year. Co-editors Jean Lee Cole and Peter Van Buren will stay on, bolstered by this additional help.

MRIA’s main website is also undergoing a much-needed redesign and update. The new site will be launched this spring and will combine content and features from the current Bulletin site with updated content similar to that on MRIA’s old site. 

The design team hopes to create an easy-to-navigate site that will provide a wealth of useful information about Bolton Hill and city living in the midtown area.

Volunteers are needed to create and update content and to manage the new website. If you’re interested in neighborhood architecture, history, local organizations, education and schools, churches, small business development, home improvement and renovation, advertising, or neighborhood governance, we may have a perfect place for you! Please email us at

And if you have pictures of neighborhood events, gatherings, or just photos of daily life in Bolton Hill, we’d love for you to submit them to the MRIA Dropbox account. Please submit high-res JPEG files, make sure you have the permission of your subjects, and include your name. 

Finally, we anticipate openings for a few additional sponsors of the site. At only $15/month ($180/year), it’s a great way to promote your business or organization to a targeted audience in midtown Baltimore. Our sponsors make the Bulletin and the new website possible. If you or someone you know would be interested in becoming a sponsor, you can find more information here. Please thank our sponsors with your support. 

Time to Renew Parking Permits

It’s time to renew your Area 3 parking permits, as all current permits will expire on March 31.

Starting February 20, you may renew your permits online at the Parking Authority website. Permits and visitors’ passes are $20 each. 

Residents who are new to the neighborhood must apply for permits in person. Find more information about residential parking permits here.

Permits can be retrieved either at the neighborhood’s community pick-up days at Memorial Episcopal Church (1406 Bolton Street—note different location this year due to renovations at Brown Memorial Episcopal Church) or at the Parking Authority. 

All residents must present current documentation when picking up permits. These documents include your current Maryland Vehicle Registration with an Area 3 address, plus one of the following that shows an Area 3 address:

  • Current driver’s license
  • Proof of residency, such as a current lease signed by all parties that is not month-to-month.
  • Proof of home ownership (settlement papers)
  • Utility bill in your name that is at least 30 days old
  • Official State ID card

If picking up permits on neighborhood pickup days:

  • You must purchase your permits online at least three days before you plan to pick up. Permits must be ordered by March 21 for the March 24 pick-up date, and by March 28 for March 31 pick-up.
  • Parking pass distribution will be on Saturday, March 24, 8 a.m.–12:30 p.m., and Saturday, March 31, 8 a.m.–1:30 p.m. at Memorial Episcopal Church. Enter the parish hall using the Lafayette Avenue side entrance. 
  • If your vehicle is registered out of state, you must register your vehicle in Maryland before being permitted to purchase a parking decal, unless you are a full-time student or a member of the military.
  • Out-of-state students and military must purchase a Non-Resident Permit from the MVA and present it at pick-up for the decal to be released.

As in years past, you will also be able to renew your MRIA community membership at the same location on those two days. A big thanks to Memorial Episcopal Church for offering their space to us this year, and to Patsy Andrews, who has organized our convenient neighborhood pickup for many years.

You can also obtain your permits at the Parking Authority Office, 200 W. Lombard Street, Suite B, 21201. Office hours are 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The office also will be open on Saturday, March 17 from 9 am–1 p.m., and open late on Tuesday, March 27, until 8 pm. TIP: you can park for free at the Arena Garage (entrance at 99 S. Howard St.) with validation from the Parking Authority Office.

In addition to credit cards, the Parking Authority also accepts checks and money orders made out to the Director of Finance. Cash is not accepted.


If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Parking Authority at or 443-573-2800, extensions 819 or 863. You may also contact your Area 3 representative, Patsy Andrews, by email at

News Briefs

North Avenue RisingNorth Avenue Rising

The City of Baltimore, MDOT and MTA have begun the planning phase for a $26 million enhancement project to improve the North Avenue corridor. Funded by several federal, state, and local transportation grants, the project will involve bike boulevards and facilities, upgrades to the Penn-North Metro station, streetscape work including bus lanes and shelters, improved lighting, and more.

Based on approximately 500 responses to their fall survey, the design team has developed initial concepts for the project design. Community Manager Anthony Brown invites residents to participate in a series of workshops where they will share these ideas and seek additional community input.

All workshops run from 4-7 p.m. 

  • Mon. Feb. 5 – Enoch Pratt Library, Walbrook Branch
  • Tues. Feb. 6 – Enoch Pratt Library, Penn Ave Branch
  • Wed. Feb. 7 – Baltimore City Public Schools headquarters,  200 E North Ave., first-floor board room
  • Thurs. Feb. 8 – Harford Heights Elementary

For more information, go to

Science Fair Needs Volunteer Judges

Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School (121 McMechen St.) is seeking volunteers to help judge student projects at the annual science fair to be held on Tuesday, March 6

Volunteers are asked to arrive at 4:30 p.m. for a judges’ orientation meeting and will score projects from 5–6:30 p.m. Judges should have some connection to a STEM field (engineers, doctors, nurses, graduate students, teachers, professors, etc.). 

Interested volunteers should contact Justin Kuk at

MRIA Endorses Greenway Trails NetworkMRIA Joins the Baltimore Greenways Trail Coalition

Avery Harmon from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy presented information about the Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition (BGTC) at January’s MRIA meeting. The Coalition supports the creation of a network of trails—not bike lanes—that would connect 50 neighborhoods throughout Baltimore. A 35-mile trail loop would connect and expand the existing Gwynn Falls Parkway, Jones Falls, and Herring Run Trails. Priorities of the group include ensuring the trail does not lead to gentrification, and that residents in all city neighborhoods have access to the trial.

The BGTC projects that this project can be completed in 5-7 years at a cost of approximately $25 million. They hope to send designs to city government by early 2018 to obtain additional funding.

To support this effort, the Coalition seeks to create regional work groups, one in each quadrant of the city. They welcome anyone interested to volunteer.

The Department of Planning, Blue Water Baltimore, Bikemore Baltimore, and the Gwynn Falls Home Owners Association all support the project, but the Coalition needs more grassroots and community input. This support will help them obtain additional funding for the trails.

MRIA unanimously voted to to join the Coalition. Individuals can join as well.

Statement of Support for the Red Line

At December’s MRIA meeting, Sam Jordan, president of the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition (BTEC), gave a presentation about the benefits of the Red Line, which would connect West and East Baltimore through downtown.

Sam explained that Governor Hogan canceled the Red Line in June 2015 without adequately analyzing the fiscal impact of this cancellation or researching how it would impact the community. The BTEC is acting on Hogan to complete the Red Line.

When the governor cancelled the Red Line project, it was fully funded with $2.9 billion in investments from federal, state, county and city sources. The state legislature also had approved it. The Governor’s administration gave $900 million back to the federal government and diverted the majority of the state-approved funds for road improvements in rural Maryland.

The many economic benefits of the Red Line include:

  • 10,000 jobs during the construction phase.
  • Creating opportunities for transit-oriented development along its 14.2-mile route and around its 19 planned stations, with an estimated $2.5 billion in new investments and another 3,000 jobs.
  • Providing a long-needed east-west transit “spine” that will give order to the LINK bus system and connect north-south rail routes.
  • Dramatically reducing commute times, thus providing access to 250,000 additional jobs in the region within 45 minutes. Currently, two of three jobs in Baltimore cannot be reached within 90 minutes using public transportation.
  • Having a projected number of 50,000 daily riders by 2035, and up to 40,000 in the intervening years.

The BTEC is focused on showing Annapolis that Baltimore wants to complete this project. This is especially important as the governor has proposed a $9 billion plan to widen several highways and include a toll lanes.

At January’s meeting, the MRIA Board voted to approve this letter of support for the BTEC.

New MRIA Board Member

Susan Dumont of the 1300 block of Park Avenue volunteered to fill one of the vacancies on the MRIA Board; the Board voted to accept her self-nomination at January’s MRIA meeting. Welcome to our newest Board member.

Snow Faces

One sunny, but very cold morning in January, we were greeted by a whole caravan of new faces that kept popping-up all around the neighborhood.

Thank you to the anonymous artist(s) for making us smile.

MICA Welcomes Puerto Rican Students After Hurricanes

The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is sponsoring five students from Puerto Rico for the spring 2018 semester, covering the students’ tuition and housing costs, as well as providing support to cover meals. 

The education of these students of Puerto Rico’s School of Visual Arts and Design (Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de Puerto Rico), a public art college in San Juan accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), was interrupted by the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year. These hurricanes caused widespread infrastructure damage throughout the island and temporarily closed the school.

Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de Puerto Rico
Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de Puerto Rico.

While the school rebuilds—it plans to reopen later in 2018—MICA and other member institutions of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design (AICAD) banded together to provide students of the School of Visual Arts and Design a chance to continue their art and design educations without further delay.

The students, already on the MICA campus, have diverse majors that include painting, printmaking, animation and digital art. They will be fully integrated into student life at MICA, and will receive mentorship from MICA graduate students.

“What’s most important is for these students to be able to continue their educations uninterrupted here at MICA and in Baltimore. We are incredibly grateful to be able to host them, and are working to make them feel at home here while they restart their studies,” said David Bogen, MICA’s vice president for academic affairs and provost.

Chili Fundraiser February 7

Bowl of ChiliWhy not enjoy a great bowl of beans while supporting a very special educational program?

Wednesday February 7, from 5–8 p.m., the PTO of Mt. Royal Elementary/Middle School hosts their third annual Northbay Chili Fundraiser in the school’s cafeteria. All funds collected help subsidize the spring field trip to Northbay Adventure camp for the 6th grade class. 

About 100 students have signed up to attend this week-long outdoor educational program focusing on environmental science and character education. This will be the school’s 12th year participating in the program. 

All field trips have costs, particularly a week-long one. In prior years, Mt. Royal school had the budget to pay for transportation and part of the tuition cost, with parents contributing substantially to the $225 per student that covers lodging, meals, activities, and materials for the week.

Due to continuing budget challenges, the PTO is seeking community support to assist in funding this valuable educational opportunity. So, come for the food and stay to learn more about the experience that Northbay has provided students. Details below:

  • When: Wednesday, February 7, 5–8 p.m., Mt. Royal school cafeteria
  • Cost: $10 (kids under 12 eat free); $1 drinks and baked goods, and $1 raffle tickets to win prizes from local merchants and restaurants.
  • Tickets: Buy online or in person at the school during school drop-off, 7:45–8 a.m.
  • Questions? Contact PTO President, Kimberly Canale at

If you can’t attend, but would still like to support the students, make a donation online.

You can also sign up to volunteer at their Sign-up Genie site. Any way you get involved with this event will help make a difference for Mt. Royal students.

Bolton Hill Nursery Seeks Festival Grant Applications

Pie in the face
Belle Hardware’s Mickey Fried gets it.

Combine a gorgeous fall afternoon, great organizing by the Bolton Hill Nursery staff, and Louie Wilder’s last year at the helm, and what do you get? A super-successful Festival on the Hill 2017.

After paying all the bills, BHN has roughly $10,000.00 to distribute in grants—nearly $5,000 more than last year! The school is now seeking grant applications.

Any nonprofit serving the 21217 zip code is invited to apply; the application deadline is March 9. Grants are awarded to special projects that either wouldn’t happen at all or would be greatly diminished without the funds. Grants are awarded May 1; the maximum award is $1,000.

Consult the Bolton Hill Nursery website for grant application information and further details.

Past recipients include Corpus Christi Church, Dance Happens, Mt. Royal Elementary/Middle School PTO, the Mt. Royal Elementary/Middle School Garden, the Memorial Episcopal Rectory teaching garden, Samaritan Community, Rutter Mill Park Association, Midtown Academy, and the Brown Memorial tutoring program.

A Valentine’s Day Menu from Linda

By Linda Rittlemann

Looking to warm things up on those cold February nights? Dinner for two with a nice bottle of pinot noir, perhaps?

Here’s an elegant, easy menu you can do on a weeknight for Valentine’s Day with just a little advance planning. Why not eat in? Goodness knows, it will probably be less hassle and more than eating out on one of the busiest restaurant nights of the year.

So—stay home. Put on some great music, and cook together!


Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less (adapted from Epicurious)



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 large shallots, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried thyme, or herbs de Provence, crumbled


  • a frenched rack of lamb (8 ribs) at room temperature, trimmed of as much fat as possible, well-seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, or more to taste


  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • In a small skillet heat oil and butter over moderate heat until foaming. Cook shallots with salt and pepper to taste, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. 
  • Add vinegar and boil until liquid is evaporated. 
  • Remove skillet from heat and stir in bread crumbs, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

Can be made one day ahead. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.

  • Season lamb with salt and pepper and arrange, rib side down, in a small roasting pan. Spread meat side with a thin coating of mustard and evenly pat on crumb mixture. 
  • Roast lamb in middle of oven until a meat thermometer registers 130°F. for medium-rare, 25 to 30 minutes. 
  • Cover lamb with foil and let rest at least 10 minutes.
  • Slice lamb into chops between the rib bones and serve.

NOTE: Using a meat thermometer helps, preferably one with a cable probe. Just insert the probe lengthwise into the thickest part of the roast, taking care not to hit any bone. It will ensure your meat is cooked perfectly, and it makes for hands-off cooking.


I happen to adore a good risotto with a nice piece of roast lamb. If you have an Instant Pot or other pressure cooker, you can make this risotto recipe while the lamb is roasting. A green salad with sliced pears, hazelnuts, dried cranberries, and some crumbled Gorgonzola or bleu cheese would be great. Use your favorite dressing.

Wines: Pinot noir is the way to go with this. Its bright, fruity notes and acidity are the perfect balance for the richness of the lamb. Pinots from Oregon’s Willamette Valley are a great choice. Try the David Hill Winery Estate pinot noir, or one from Westrey Oracle Vineyard. You’ll get lots of pomegranate, cherry, and vanilla notes, along with a nice forest earthiness and mineral flavor to balance it out with the meat. I have found both at The Wine Source in Hampden.

I’ll leave dessert up to you. Just remember, unwrap it slowly and savor it. Linger over it. Whatever it might be.

Tree Bark Talk

By Sarah Lord

When the leaves are gone, identifying trees can be difficult. While damaged bark hurts most trees, or is a symptom that pests have the upper hand, exfoliant bark peels and sheds naturally. It is abandoned skin as the tree grows.

Can you identify these mottled-bark Bolton Hill trees? 

Our Crape Myrtles (1) are small, multi-stemmed summer ornamentals. The Chinese elm (2) is medium-sized; its cousin the Japanese Zelcova (3) grows 70-80 feet in height. Sycamores (4) in the wild can reach 100 feet.

This time of year we are grateful to the exfoliants, which add winter interest to our streets.

Bolton Hill Nursery Seeks Garden, Scholarship Funds

Bolton Hill Nursery

Can you help make Louie’s last year at Bolton Hill Nursery the best one ever?

Louie Wilder will be stepping down as director of the Bolton Hill Nursery at the end of this school year. Her accomplishments over the past sixteen years have been many.

Under Louie’s leadership, the school’s enrollment grew from 35 children to a high of 120, before settling down to the current comfortable level of 84 children. Over the last four years, they moved from three rented classrooms and an office at Brown Memorial Church to purchasing and renovating their new home at 204 W. Lanvale. 

Along with her professional and creative staff, they have earned an excellent reputation in both the neighborhood and the city at large. Plus, they have taken over sponsorship for the neighborhood’s annual Festival on the Hill, and built it up so that this fall’s Festival was the best and most financially successful ever.

Louie would like to depart on a high note, so for this year’s annual fund drive, she is focusing on two key initiatives. 

Garden Fund: The garden in the northeast corner of the 204 W. Lanvale property need restoration and ongoing maintenance, both of which have been delayed due to the needs of the main building on the property, which was built in 1850. The establishment of a dedicated fund will help ensure that the garden, too, will be attended to and remain a place of restful beauty for generations to come.

Scholarship Program: Louie seeks to share Bolton Hill Nursery’s fantastic preschool curriculum with more families from the city at large. A robust scholarship program makes this great school more accessible to our neighbors.

These two projects cannot—and should not—be supported by tuition alone. Louie hopes that neighbors, alumni, Bolton Hill families and friends will help the Nursery achieve these goals before Louie steps down. “It is important to me to know these priorities, as well as the future health of the school, are well on their way to being met,” she said.

Donate online to Bolton Hill Nursery’s annual drive here.

We Need You! Join the Bulletin Team

72-06-10 masthead
An early Bulletin masthead from June 1972

By Co-editors Jean Lee Cole and Peter Van Buren

Faithful readers of the Bulletin have no doubt witnessed our growth over the past few years. To help sustain this new, bigger, more colorful, and better Bulletin, the MRIA Executive Board seeks to expand the Bulletin production team. 

With the help of a few more neighbors, one of Baltimore’s longest continually-running neighborhood newsletters can continue to serve the community by broadcasting news and telling our stories.

We seek to fill the following roles:

Managing Editor (total time commitment: 7-10 hours per month, concentrated between the 15th and 25th of each month).

In the middle of each month, the Managing Editor sends an email reminder to the list of regular contributors soliciting submissions, and then collects and organizes submissions as they come in and distribute to the Editor and the Calendar Editor as needed. The Managing Editor works with the Editor to finalize the stories that will run in each issue and uploads draft copy into individual WordPress stories. Skills required: strong organizational skills; ability to collaborate and function as liaison between writers, editor, and MRIA leadership; proficiency with WordPress (easy to learn). Understanding of journalistic style and how to construct stories a plus.

Calendar Editor (total time commitment: 2-4 hours per month, concentrated during the last week of the month).

The Calendar Editor ensures that calendar listings (approx. 10 items per month) contain all necessary information for each event, including date, time, location, and event description. He or she will upload the events to the Bulletin website using the calendar plug-in in WordPress. 
Skills required: strong organizational skills; ability to edit for brevity, clarity, and consistency; proficiency with WordPress (easy to learn).

Business Manager (total time commitment: 10-15 hours per year, concentrated between October-January).

The Business Manager solicits renewals for sponsorship contracts in October of each year; finds new sponsors if necessary; bills all sponsors for the membership year beginning Jan. 1; and ensures that invoices have been paid. 
Skills required: organizational and people skills; knowledge of neighborhood businesses and organizations.

These new members of the production team will assist Peter and Jean, who will continue in their roles as Editor (Peter) and Production Editor (Jean). The Editor is responsible for leading the publication, conveying its general attitude and tone, and determining what content is and is not appropriate for the Bulletin. The Production Editor copyedits all articles for both style and substance, edits images for optimal effect for online publication, and updates the website menus and archives with the publication of each issue.

If you have the time and skills to contribute to the cause, email us at

Share Some Holiday Cheer

Holiday Cheer

Make your December more enjoyable by attending these local events.

But first, start by sharing your good fortune with others and support local organizations in the 21217 zip code. This Holiday Giving and Volunteer Guide from the Social Action Task Force has all the information your need to make this easy. 

December 1-3 and 8-10 – Memorial Players’ production of A Christmas Carol; get tickets for a pre-show reception in advance.

December 7-10 – MICA’s Annual Art Market

December 9 – Garden Club Holiday Greens Sale

December 9 – North Avenue Knowledge Exchange Day

December 10 – Carols and Holiday Party at Linden Park Apartments

December 10 – Tiffany Series Brass and Organ Concert

December 31 – Brown Memorial Church Holiday Open House and Windows Tour

A Visit from Robert Lee

From Just Us to JusticeBy Grey Maggiano

One hundred years ago, to have any family of General Robert E. Lee visit Memorial Church in Bolton Hill would have been a momentous occasion. Hundreds likely would have gathered to be close to the defender of the South, and to celebrate all those who “fought for a cause that was right.”

So it was with not a little irony that I had the pleasure to welcome the Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV, descendant of the Confederate general, to Memorial Church to discuss undoing white supremacy, taking down monuments to the Confederacy and changing the narrative around race in our city.

On Sunday evening of November 26, the Rev. Lee spoke, in a discussion moderated by Pastor Montrell Haygood of the Garden Church, about his personal journey to disavowing the Confederacy and white supremacy, and about “What is Next?” for him and for us. 

The watershed moment, for him, was the rally in Charlottesville and in particular the death of Heather Heyer. He felt he could no longer stay silent and needed to speak out. He appeared at the MTV Music Awards in August, at the side of Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, and spoke in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and in favor of taking down statues of Robert E. Lee and other prominent figures of the Confederacy.

Afterward, a significant number of his parishioners expressed their opposition to his statements and requested he step down.

Rev. Lee did not expect to be forced to resign from his Church for supporting Black Lives Matter, and it is still painful to him to see so many people that he loves and cares for not understand what is meant by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Rev. Lee offered some helpful reflections on the issue of monuments and racism — relating a story from the Book of Acts, where Paul is thrown in jail because he wants to bring a new way of viewing the world that would involve tearing down old statues. The caution, of course, is that those statues never came down; Paul’s “new way” was never really embraced in Ephesus. Our challenge is that while the monuments have come down we haven’t really changed the narrative around race here in Baltimore.

Pastor Haygood offered his own perspective as a black pastor at a purpose-built multi-racial church, reminding us that this work isn’t easy. They have issues not only regarding race, but also class and political beliefs, that make it hard to keep the congregation together. What has been most life-giving for him is the recognition that we don’t have to agree 100% to be in a community, we just have to agree that we need to be in community.

Rob reminded us that not everyone has to go on The View or MTV to make a difference, and that by developing authentic relationships with our neighbors, especially those of a different race, creed, identity or political persuasion, we can do a lot to craft a different way of dealing with race.

Neighbors from Bolton Hill and around the city shared their own stories of pain and hope around the issue of racism in Baltimore. To conclude the event, I asked The Rev. Lee the change he would like to see in Baltimore if he were to return in five years.

He said, “I would like to see the same investment that is put into the Inner Harbor and white communities be invested in black communities. I’d like to see re-development without gentrification. And I’d like to see people more openly and honestly having conversations about systemic racism here in the city.”

A tall order, but I believe Baltimore is up to meeting these challenges, and that our small corner of inner West Baltimore can lead the way.

Watch a recording of most of the evening’s conversation on YouTube here

Creativity Goes Wild at Great Pumpkin Party

By Chas Phillips

On a gorgeous October day in Bolton Hill, children and neighbors alike gathered at the Kappa Alpha Psi Youth and Community Center for the second annual Great Pumpkin Party. MRIA’s Social Action Task Force and Kappa Alpha Psi organized the party to provide a community-based Halloween event for the neighborhood.

Tiny witches, Supermen, princesses, clowns, vampires, dolphins, and pop-culture wizards slipped in and out of the array of donated costumes, while MICA volunteers applied their spooky artistic ability to dozens of faces. Creativity was also on display in the wide assortment of pumpkins decorated and proudly schlepped home by the party’s attendees.

Enthusiastic kids ran from the costume exchange tent to the pumpkin-decorating station before receiving the final touches at the face-painting booth. Thanks to generous donations, volunteers, and sponsors, everything at this Halloween celebration was enjoyed free of charge.

Local Color: Zelkova Serrata

Remarkable Trees of BHBy Sarah Lord

As we face forward to winter, memories of an unusually late fall remain.

In the drought, ginkgo trees dropped green leaves—and also golden ones after overdue rain. 

Japanese maples were hot as chili peppers and red maples glowed like neon. 

A single zelkova could put you in mind of a whole box of Jujyfruits.

Zelkova serrata entered our lives following the demise of the glorious American elm, Ulmus americana. Dutch elm disease ineluctably destroyed Baltimore’s most stately shade tree, planted in the early 1900s and admired for its elegant vase shape.

To replace it landscapers picked a southern European cousin in the elm family Ulmaceae, native also to Japan, Korea and eastern China. Its vase shape is a bit cluttered in comparison to Ulmus Americana, and the tree does not match its counterpart in grace. Nonetheless, zelkovas line Mt. Royal Avenue quite handsomely and their exfoliating trunks are visually interesting in wintertime.

Meet Albert: Taking a Healthy Approach to Future Success

Samaritan Community, Albert's food
Albert’s healthy meal prepared from Samaritan’s food pantry.

By Emily Reichart

Albert came to Samaritan Community in the spring of 2016. He was finishing his education to become a medical assistant and needed help with food and rent while he worked for his degree.

“I’d never had to receive help like this before and was very nervous about the process,” he explained. “A friend referred me to Samaritan and I am so glad he did. As soon as I walked in the door, I felt comfortable and respected. I knew I was in good hands.”

Being a vegetarian, he was nervous about receiving food from a pantry and what would be available for him.

“I assumed that a food pantry would have limited offerings. Wow, was I surprised! The quality and variety of the foods is more than I could have ever hoped for,” recalls Albert.

Since his first visit to Samaritan, Albert has successfully finished his studies and is currently doing administrative work for two medical employers, as he waits to take his exam to become a licensed medical assistant. Everyone at Samaritan is proud of Albert and all he has accomplished.

Meet the Lacovara Group

Hockey Fans Lacovara and Hagar
Hockey Fans: Avendui Lacovara with neighbor Donna Hagar

By Avendui Lacovara

I love being a realtor.

Whether it’s a stranger met at an open house, a friend of a friend, or a neighbor, all clients take a leap of faith trusting me with one of the major changes in their lives, and I am honored to help them.

Folks typically choose to move at moments when their lives change—when they get a new job or a raise, have a new baby and outgrow their home, become empty-nesters or retire.

Sometimes clients move just a few blocks away and sometimes they move across the country, but no matter why a client is moving or how far they are going, it’s always a privilege to help. I take the responsibility seriously.

While we love to sell grand, architecturally important properties like those in Bolton Hill and other historic neighborhoods, it’s helping people buy the home that’s right for them that matters most. Each of our team has stories of folks crying with joy as they receive keys to their new home.

One client’s story will always stick with me. As a result of the Great Recession, she had lost her job, and her credit rating had plummeted. With hard work and determination, she landed a new job, righted her financial ship, and bought her first home.

After signing all the papers at settlement, she broke down sobbing, because until that moment she hadn’t believed she could buy a home.

While not all sales are that fraught with emotion, helping someone create a life they love always moves us.

After selling solo for many years, in 2015 I formed the Lacovara Group. I joined up with another full-time agent, Tracey Clark, licensed assistant Ian Cameron and office administrator Joan Garlow. Our team ensures that all clients get the best personalized customer service.

Plus, we laugh have fun and laugh a lot.

The Lacovara Group is on call and available seven days a week. We work hard for our clients. It upsets me that realtors are sometimes thought of as used car salesmen, when the Lacovara Group prides itself on always having our clients’ best interests at heart.

People may not realize it, but we love helping stage a home to show it off, and we love when neighbors stop by our open houses. 

I’m also a big sports fan, especially hockey and soccer.

Visit the Lacovara Group online here.

Demolition Complete at Madison Park North. What’s Next?

By David Nyweide

It’s tough not to notice the transformation of the 8-acre site formerly known as Madison Park North just across North Avenue from Bolton Hill. What was once a mass of vacant buildings is now a wide open plot, revealing Reservoir Hill’s beautiful row homes beyond. 

A September 25 community meeting at MICA was a chance for the developers David Bramble of MCB Real Estate (and a resident of Madison Park) and Mark Renbaum of MLR Partners to update everyone on progress on the $130 million redevelopment of the property and to show some preliminary renderings.

Series shows the clearing of the site looking north from North Ave. at Bolton St.

The entire site will have 300-500 residential units of various sizes and prices, and  parking will be included on the property. Since it has a natural grade, row homes will be built to match the height of those currently peering at Bolton Hill from Lennox Street.

Bramble said that the buildings on North Avenue, in contrast, will be “something new, something big, and something bold,” to act as a gateway to west Baltimore. The east side of the site along Park Avenue will be built first. There, plans include an innovation center “incubator” for artists and entrepreneurs.

West North Avenue was recently awarded a $27 million improvement grant from the State of Maryland, with $9 million for streetscaping. The Madison Park North developers are working with the Maryland Transit Authority to coordinate their efforts to ensure that North Avenue will be more pedestrian-friendly.

The developers are still seeking a grocery store for the site and have to iron out some technical details on the title before construction can begin. A group of residents has been actively meeting with the developers to provide community input on the project, and should have a petition ready soon for signatures to demonstrate community support for a grocery store.  

The meetings of the residents group are open to all, and are held the fourth Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at St. Francis Neighborhood Center, on the corner of Linden Avenue and Whitelock Street.

Dwell on the Past to Make a Better Future

From Just Us to JusticeBy Grey Maggiano

One of the most frequent responses I get when I  tell stories about the history of racism in Baltimore or in Bolton Hill is, “Let’s not dwell on the past.” This is usually spoken by well-meaning white people, usually over the age of 50, who don’t think it necessary to spend a lot of time talking about what life was like “back then.” 

Unfortunately, this attitude ignores the fact that our history continues to influence our present reality. As MICA student Zion Douglass said so eloquently at last month’s Community Conversation on the Confederate monuments, history is a “subtle” but constant reminder that black people are not welcome here.

I frequently remind people that just because you don’t remember the past in a particular way, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t true. Black people in their seventies or eighties who grew up in West Baltimore are aware of this history, and they have shared it with their children, and their grandchildren.

So when an organization or institution—whether it’s a church like Memorial Episcopal, a neighborhood group like MRIA, a school like MICA, or any other community group—asks, why more people of color don’t belong to their group, part of the answer lies in our history. Because there was a time when black people were not welcome in our churches, in our community associations, or even on our streets.  

Early 1900's meeting announcement of Mt. Royal Protection Association
Early 1900s announcement from the Mt. Royal Protection Association.

In fact, at an early 1900’s meeting of the Mt. Royal Protection Association, a group of local pastors, including a pastor from Memorial, spoke about the need to keep the neighborhood segregated to prevent inter-marriage between blacks and whites. Maybe a reason some people of color are leery about our institutions is because historically, they have had good reason to be.

Last year, at the conclusion of our Confronting Racism Stations of the Cross, a neighbor remarked to me that she had always been a bit uneasy living in Bolton Hill, and that the process of methodically proceeding through the neighborhood, uncovering these hidden truths, speaking them out loud and pledging to not commit those sins again was a powerful and healing moment for her. Perhaps that is true for others. Perhaps it could be true for you as well.

We should tell our truths boldly. Readily uncover the history of racism, and segregation and Jim Crow in Baltimore and in our community of Bolton Hill. We should do so not as a form of eternal self-flagellation for the sins of the past, but in order to better understand how our community, our institutions, our streets became what they are today.

One way to actively participate is to join the Service of Reconciliation on Saturday, November 4 at 3:00 p.m. at Memorial Episcopal Church. This will be the final stop in the Trail of Souls Pilgrimage, an annual program put on by the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland that calls attention to the Church’s role in supporting slavery, segregation and Jim Crow in Maryland.

Memorial Episcopal in Bolton Hill will be the final stop on the pilgrimage, and the program will conclude with a service of reconciliation led by Bishop Eugene Sutton, the first African American Bishop of Maryland. It will include the St. James’ Gospel Choir and feature a talk given by Dr. Ray Winbush, the Director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University. This service is open to anyone in the community who would like to participate.  

Let’s dwell a bit on the past, on purpose, to create a better present and better futures for all.

Register here for the Trail of Souls Pilgrimage, Saturday, November 4, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Meet at the Diocesan Center, 4 East University Parkway, Baltimore.

MRIA Supports Neighborhood Charging Station for Electric Vehicles

Charging a Nissan Leaf By Bill Hamilton

The Mt. Royal Improvement Association board has tentatively endorsed plans to install two charging stations for electric vehicles at the edge of Sumpter Park, on Robert Street near Jordan Alley.

Kevin Morris, a Bolton Hill resident, told the board that the Electric Vehicle Institute (EVI), a local nonprofit, is working with the city to install stations at city-owned facilities. Chargers have already been installed throughout the Baltimore area, including Druid Hill Park, Patterson Park and Canton waterfront parks, and at Pratt branch libraries. 

Through grants and sponsorships, EVI covers the costs for installation and maintenance of the stations at no cost to the surrounding neighborhood. And Baltimore City pays for the electricity used to charge cars at the stations with no charge to the drivers.

As many as four EV ports could be accommodated at the proposed location in Bolton Hill, although MRIA proposed asking for only two at this point, with the parking spaces at the stations restricted to vehicles while actively using them. MRIA Board members voted for a general endorsement of the plan, but will revisit specifics of the issue once a letter of endorsement is submitted for final approval.

According to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, 5,089 plug-in vehicles were based in the state as of three years ago. It’s not clear how many there are in the neighborhood, but Morris said a half-dozen or more people have approached him in support of installing an EV station, saying they have an electric car or plan to purchase one.

“I have long wanted an electric car, and have been researching how to make urban EV ownership feasible,” Morris said. Through his research, he discovered that “Baltimore is one of the most progressive cities in the country in terms of promoting and enabling electric vehicle ownership.” Morris hopes to buy a Tesla next year.

Locally, plug-in stations have been installed at several garages for paying parkers, including three stations in the UB-Maryland Avenue garage and two at the Fitzgerald garage, but only the first 15 minutes are free. There also are standard wall outlets available for paying parkers at the Charles Theatre garage. Other public charging locations around town include the West Baltimore MARC station, Lexington Market, the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Baltimore Public Works Museum and the Hotel Indigo. MICA has several stations for faculty and staff on campus parking lots.

In addition to federal tax incentives of up to $7,500, Maryland purchasers of plug-in electric vehicles have been eligible for an excise tax credit of up to $3,000. The state also offers a $900 rebate for buying and installing wall connectors for individuals; $5,000 for businesses or state or local governments; and $7,000 for retail service station dealers. Between 2008 and December 2016, cumulative sales of electric vehicles in the U.S. totaled 570,187, representing 28.1% of the global light-duty plug-in stock. As of December 2016, the U.S. had the world’s third-largest stock of plug-in passenger cars, after China and the EU.