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.

Festival on the Hill Produces Fun and Funds

Graced with an gorgeous fall afternoon, this year’s Festival on the Hill was a triumph. Organized by the Bolton Hill Nursery under the leadership of Louie Wilder, the planners outdid themselves. 

The rebooted Gourmet Gazebo was a huge success, featuring great food prepared by many neighbors. The expanded children’s area kept the younger generation joyful and occupied, and this year appealed to older children with the addition of a bounce house, obstacle course, and basketball hoop (a big thanks to Jeff Dugan). These activities set the stage for the Bolton Hill Olympics, with medals for the obstacle course, long jump and bean bag toss. Rev. Grey Maggiano and neighbor Ron Gray awarded medals to the winners.

 

Photos by Kellie Wellborn

The day culminated in the second annual Pie in the Face contest. Organizer Kelly Applefeld admits that she was “a bit worried” at the few who initially volunteered, but was grateful to all those who were willing to “step up to the plate”—including Louie Wilder, Peter Van Buren, Andrew Parlock, Grey Maggiano, Sara Darlington, Mickey Fried, Tim Horjus and Kara Peterson.

The contest helped raise an additional $500, and Kelly hopes it will become a Festival on the Hill tradition for many years to come. She wants readers to know it’s never too early to volunteer your face for a pie in 2018. Email her at bhnkellyapplefeld@gmail.com if you want to save your spot.

Generous sponsorships from local businesses and good neighbors offset costs, so most of the day’s take was profit. Louie projects that they should have roughly $10,000.00 to distribute in grants, nearly $5,000 more than last year!  Grant applications will be posted on the BHN website and listed in the bulletin in January, due in March and awarded in May. Any nonprofit who serves the 21217 zip code may apply for a grant; participation in the festival is not a requirement for grants.

As Louie said, “There are simply too many people to thank individually, as it really takes a village to make a successful Festival On the Hill.”

Visit the Festival on the Hill (a.k.a. Pie In Your Face) Facebook page for more photos of the day’s doings.

Tree Pit Project Makes Trees, Kids Happy

They came, they dug, and they played with worms, creating a perfect educational field trip for 30 students from neighborhood schools.

On Friday, October 6, students from Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary, Midtown Academy and Mount Royal Elementary/Middle participated in a hands-on community greening project. In the process, they learned about the value of healthy trees and helpful stormwater mitigation practices.

When students and teachers arrived for the tree pit expansion event, the BGE bucket truck crew was already on site with their cherrypicker, always a fascinating machine for kids—not to mention adults. After a demonstration, the crew joined the group to recondition the tree pits with topsoil, LeafGro and mulch. The “toppers” for the kids included planting the liriope spicata, and introducing wiggly cultivators (i.e., earthworms) into the soil of the pits.

 

In all, they removed nearly 1,200 sq. ft. of concrete sidewalk, expanding the tree pits by an overall average of 36.2%.  After the kids returned to school, Barbara Cates of Memorial’s Creation Care Team and Dick Williams stenciled two nearby storm drains with messages reminding neighbors that the drains lead directly to the Chesapeake Bay.

Plans for this project started in January, when Mark Cameron of the City’s Department of Public Works’ Watershed section, landscape architect JoAnn Tract Tongson of Mahan Rykiel, Darin Crew of Blue Water Baltimore, and Memorial’s Buildings and Grounds co-chairs Monty Howard and Dick Williams met to identify prospects for decreasing impervious surfaces on Memorial’s grounds.  Due to the church’s urban site, the group identified tree pit expansion as a key strategy.

Memorial Church ran with the idea, led by bedrock environmentalist, Rev. Grey Maggiano, who encouraged the formation of the Creation Care Team.

As plans progressed, many hands helped make this project successful. In addition to the bucket truck crew, BGE provided a $3,000 Green Grants award to fund the project. Dick Williams noted in particular that Gwen Nolt and Fareeha Waheed of Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary were “the first to embrace the education component of the program,” as far back as July of this year.

He also recognized Bolton Hill neighbor Sarah Lord, who was “so generous with her knowledge of trees, a proper tree pit, our urban environmental challenge, and on-site support with a ‘walk through’ rehearsal.” He also singled out Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School Principal Job Grotsky for helping to connect Memorial Episcopal with folks at other area schools.

In Brief

A New Name for MRIA

At October’s board meeting, President Linda Rittelmann reported that MRIA is working to become a 501(c)3 designated non-profit, which would allow the organization to offer tax deductions for donations, apply for nonprofit grants, and save sales tax on certain purchases, fees, and licenses.

The Executive Committee plans to keep the Mount Royal Improvement Association as a 501(c)4, its current designation. However, in order to apply for the 501(c)3, the organization needs to register a new name with the IRS. Two names have been suggested, Bolton Hill Neighborhood Association (BHNA), or Bolton Hill Community Association (BHCA). 

If you have other name suggestions, please email them to Linda Rittelmann (linda.rittelmann@gmail.com) or Lisa Robinson (lrobin7789@aol.com). A vote is planned in the near future to decide on the new name.

Dovecote CafeLocal Restaurants 

Carol Hylton let us know that Reservoir Hill’s Dovecote Cafe received a much-deserved rave review in Food & Wine Magazine. Plus they included their recipe for Smashed Banana Bread. Yum.

Ryleigh’s Oyster has closed its Mount Vernon location with plans to transition the restaurant to a private event space and catering kitchen.

Phil Hahn, the owner of Dooby’s and Sugarvale Restaurants in Mount Vernon, wants to take over the old Two Boots location at the Fitzgerald. He attended October’s MRIA meeting seeking a letter of support for his pursuit of a liquor license for the site. He plans to create a cool neighborhood pizza restaurant and bar, with 86 seats indoors and another 24 outside on the sidewalk, plus live entertainment on special occasions from Peabody students or graduates and other area musicians.

Phil is asking for a Class B license, which is for beer and wine only and allows operations until 2 a.m. The Brass Tap, next door, is open until 2 a.m. every night. When neighbors voiced concerns about amplified music, Phil responded that only keyboards would be amplified, and that stipulations to limit decibel levels could be added to the license’s restrictions.  

Phil also reported that when he sought a new license in Mount Vernon, the neighborhood association crafted language that ensured the liquor license wouldn’t transfer automatically to a new owner. The MRIA Board approved a letter of support for a license at the Mt. Royal location that included language similar to Mt. Vernon’s.

MICA President Samuel HoiMICA President Samuel Hoi Honored

President Hoi was named a 2017-2018 Art of Change Fellow by the Ford Foundation. The fellowship program recognizes “visionary artists and cultural leaders in creating powerful works of art that help advance freedom, justice and inclusion, and strengthen our democracy,” according to a statement released by the Foundation.

This year’s cohort of 25 fellows includes dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, writer Sandra Cisneros, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, composer Mohammed Fairouz, cultural leaders Lori Pourier and Carlton Turner, and artist Fred Wilson, among others. A full list of this year’s fellows can be found here.

“It is a profound honor to be recognized as a Ford Art of Change Fellow,” said Hoi. “Arts educators, especially those of us on the administrative side, seldom receive attention as cultural leaders and social change makers. The Ford Foundation’s bold commitment to highlight such an inclusive range of Art of Change Fellows sheds wonderful light on the full spectrum of creative efforts that contribute to a more just society. I am deeply inspired and humbled to be among the incredible leaders acknowledged by this fellowship program.”

Since joining MICA in 2014, President Hoi has spearheaded significant initiatives to advance opportunity and equity in the arts, both at MICA and in the greater Baltimore community.

He has instituted a large-scale and inclusive creative entrepreneurship program, as well as a campus-wide integration effort for diversity, equity, inclusion and globalization. President Hoi also conceived and helped create the Baltimore Creatives Acceleration Network (B/CAN) project, a citywide network of entrepreneurial support for Baltimore’s creatives regardless of socio-economic, gender, generational, geographic or disciplinary boundaries.

Memorial Players Present A Christmas Carol

Memorial Players' A Christmas Carol
Cast member John Lisch with co-director Darren McGregor

Bah, humbug!” and “God bless us, every one!

Who does not recognize the exclamations made famous by Scrooge and Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ beloved A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an old miser who hates Christmas. Scrooge is visited by four ghosts, first his former business partner Jacob Marley, followed by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Their visits transform Scrooge into a kinder, gentler man, with a genuine concern for the business of mankind.

Watch and enjoy his transformation in the Memorial Players’ production of A Christmas Carol, opening in Bolton Hill Friday night, December 1

Responding to the appalling living and working conditions of the urban poor, especially children, Dickens wrote his novella over the course of six weeks in the fall of 1843. Set squarely in the mid-nineteenth century London where it originated, Romulus Linney’s adaptation preserves most of Dickens’ language and text. 

Directed by Darren McGregor and Rina Steinhauer and produced by Kristine Smets, the play, like the novella, is full of wit and satire, both vivid and immediate. Even though the play will transport the audience into the past, they will be reminded that the problems of homelessness, inadequate education, and incarceration are still ours. Nothing in Dickens is out of date.

The cast includes many well-known faces from Memorial Players’ past musicals and dramas. Set design is by John Seeley, costumes by Tita Rutledge, props by Maggie Blanck, light and sound design by Daryl Beard, and poster by Lynne Menefee. 

A Christmas Carol, like all Memorial Episcopal productions, is admission-free, but good-will donations are always welcome. Performances will be presented at Memorial Church, on the corner of Lafayette and Bolton streets.

Performance dates:

  • Friday, December 1, 7:30 pm
  • Saturday, December 2, 7:30 pm
  • Sunday, December 3, 3:30 pm
  • Friday, December 8, 7:30 pm
  • Saturday, December 9, 7:30 pm
  • Sunday, December 10, 3:30 pm
Memorial Players' A Christmas Carol
Producer Kristine Smets and co-director Rina Steinhauer with Lisch at Festival on the Hill.

Pre-show receptions are held in several of Bolton Hill’s beautiful Victorian residences before each show. They’re a great way to donate to Memorial Players and to meet other members of the Memorial Players community. Attendees enjoy food and refreshments and receive a VIP card that guarantees a reserved seat near the front. 

Click on the date to purchase tickets online for one of the receptions held at the following homes:

  • Friday, December 1: home of Paul Seaton and John Seeley, 217 Bolton Place. Co-hosted by Nirina Randrianarivelo. 5:30 to 7 pm (show starts at 7:30 pm).
  • Saturday, December 2: home of David Bielenberg and Greg Trimble, 1406 Bolton Street. Co-hosted by Melanie Alfano. 5:30 to 7 pm (show starts at 7:30 pm).
  • Sunday, December 3: home of Beth Frederick & Don Palmer, 1307 Bolton Street. Sponsored by MRIA’s Social Action Task Force. 1 to 3 pm (show starts at 3:30 pm).
  • Friday, December 8: home of John McLucas, 1314 Bolton Street. Co-host by Lee Bowers. 5:30 to 7 pm (show starts at 7:30 pm).
  • Saturday, December 9: home of Michael Booth & Kristine Smets, 1308 Bolton Street. Co-hosted by Sallye Perrin. 5:30 to 7 pm (show starts at 7:30 pm).
  • No reception for the final matinee on Sunday, December 10, so just come to the 3:30 pm performance.

For more information, visit Memorial Players online here or call Paul Seaton, 410-615-4532. A Christmas Carol is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, In​c., New York. 

The Humble But Useful Silver Maple

Remarkable Trees of BHMaples abound in Bolton Hill. In wetter cooler autumns, red maple varieties offer up their pleasing blaze of rouge. The invasive Norway maple is a hardy urban tree, but with duller fall color; it is disliked because it “takes over” and is stingy in benefits to our native wildlife. 

Also no showboat in the fall, the leaves of the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) turn a pale yellowish. Nonetheless I am very fond of an Acer saccharinum (not to be confused with the universally admired Acer sacchrum – sugar maple) up the alleyways from Johns Street Park. It is two-trunked and massive enough to shade four or five houses from our boiling summer heat. 

Nonetheless I am very fond of a neighborhood Acer saccharinum, towering above an alleyway off of John Street Park. It is two-trunked and massive enough to shade four or five houses from our boiling summer heat. 

This is a shambling, generous tree, with rough bark and rounded buds and seeds useful to squirrels and birds when other food is scarce. As early as February, it is important to my honeybees trying to make it through winter.

Native Americans used its wood for basket-making and furniture, and its sweet sap for bread-making and in medicine. The Mohegans used an infusion of bark taken from the south-facing side of these trees to make cough medicine.

Then as now, when the wind blows through its foliage, its green leaves ripple, showing their gray undersides. The canopy’s silvery effect is transporting. 

Toilet Paper Drive and Bake Sale Score for Samaritan Community

Steve Howard at the Samaritan's Table at the Festival
Steve Howard at the Samaritan’s Table at the Festival

By Emily Reichart

The Samaritan Community, a Bolton-Hill based human services 501c(3) non-profit organization, thanks the neighborhood for all of its support at this year’s Festival on the Hill. Together, we collected 150 rolls of toilet paper, an important necessity and our most-requested item at our pantry. We also raised over $200 for our programs and services through our Festival bake sale.

Samaritan Community has been a proud member of the Bolton Hill community for 40 years. For more information about us and how we help those who are struggling, visit our website online or our Facebook page.

Thank you again from all of us at Samaritan Community!

Leaf Collection Season Has Begun

Leaf PickupBy Bill Hamilton

The city’s Department of Public Works will collect leaves from city residents through Monday, January 8. Leaves can be collected in two ways:

Weekly trash pick-up: Bagged leaves are collected on regularly scheduled trash collection days. DPW’s solid waste crews will accept up to 5 bags of leaves from each address every week.

By appointment: Larger collections of bagged leaves, up to 20 bags, will be picked up by appointment on Mondays during the leaf collection season, Oct. 30–Jan. 8. Please call 311 before 6 p.m. on Sunday to arrange a leaf collection for the following Monday. Residents may schedule multiple appointments for up to two months prior to the pick-up date. Multiple appointments may be scheduled until all of your bagged leaves are collected.

Midtown Baltimore, the Midtown Community Benefits District covering Bolton Hill as well as Mt. Vernon, Charles North and Madison Park neighborhoods, has begun regular sweeps through the neighborhoods to vacuum leaves on roads and sidewalks. Leaf vacuuming will take place at least weekly for the remainder of the year and into 2018. If additional attention is needed, one can call Midtown Baltimore at 410 528-1512 for scheduling.