MRIA Votes in Opposition of Arena Plan for State Center

State Center rendering
Rendering of the proposed State Center complex at Howard and MLK.

Governor Hogan recently proposed the building of an arena at the State Center site as an alternative to the proposed development that is currently under litigation. At the March MRIA Board meeting, the MRIA Board voted unanimously to oppose the arena plan. 

John Kyle, Bolton Hill resident and president of the State Center Neighborhood Alliance, briefed everyone on the current status of the State Center redevelopment before the vote. 

After more than a decade of unprecedented community, state, and developer engagement, Governor Hogan led the state Board of Public Works to cancel all contracts last December and then sued the developer. The developer responded to the lawsuit in kind. This litigation will probably take two to three years to resolve.

Meanwhile, the governor decided to move ahead with a $30,000 task force to study the site as the location for an arena. Another study from several years ago already concluded that it was an unfavorable arena location. Moreover, representatives from the surrounding neighborhoods are not included on the task force.

Objections from nearby residents are detailed in a front-page story in the April 1 edition of the Sun, as well as through numerous op-eds and letters to the editor. Many elected officials support State Center redevelopment, including City Council President Jack Young, Councilman Costello, and Mayor Pugh. 

John highlighted some key consequences if State Center redevelopment does not proceed:

  • State employee jobs could be transferred to other areas of the state.
  • Abandoned State Center buildings could sit unoccupied indefinitely.
  • Private-sector jobs that would be created by the new development would no longer generate state tax revenue.
  • The full-service grocery, which had been a proposed use for the Armory building, would not be developed.
  • Proposed transit-oriented development would be scuttled.

The State Center Alliance is now trying to bring the administration and developer back to the table. MRIA has been a longtime supporter of State Center redevelopment plans, and following John’s updates, the MRIA Board voted unanimously to oppose an arena at the State Center site.

On March 20, Councilman Costello sponsored a resolution supporting the State Center Development, which was unanimously adopted by the City Council.

What You Can Do to Help State Center Redevelopment

Sign the petition. After all this time, folks may have lost sight of the good things that will come from redevelopment. As a reminder, project developers have launched an online petition that will enable West Baltimore voice its need for a full-service grocery store and desire for redevelopment of the State Center site. Sign the petition here.

Write, call, or email Governor Hogan to encourage him to restart negotiations and implement the plan. Remind him that the plan has been 10 years in the making and has the full support of the surrounding communities. Showing widespread support will apply more pressure for the State to return to the table.

For more information and to get involved, like the State Center Neighborhood Alliance Facebook page, visit the developer’s State Center website or follow @StateCenterLLC on Twitter

Revamped Safety Committee Gets to Work

By Barbie Klik and David Nyweide

MRIA’s newly revamped Safety Committee, including representatives from the Midtown Benefits District, Prince Hall Grand Lodge, and the Lyric as well as Bolton Hill neighbors, has already been hard at work.

At their first meeting in late February, the committee reviewed several programs in need of support, and formed subcommittees to address these needs.

  • Court Watch, led by Carol Bickford and Jim Prost, will ensure community presence in court for serious cases.
  • Lighting and Crime Stats will be led by Ron Gray and Maria Wawer.
  • Personal Safety Seminars will be led by Rich Dunfee and Michelle Wirzberger and organized in partnership with MICA, police department, and Midtown.
  • Video Cameras, led by Linda Stirling, John Heltman and Patrick Francis, will create a camera survey and map to document which areas of the neighborhood are covered by private cameras.
Tree trimming March 18
The Lighting and Crime Stats subcommittee trimmed trees around street lights in March.

The Lighting & Crime Stats subcommittee will work with the City to improve lighting based on the lighting survey that was completed last yea. They will also launch a neighborhood lighting program with incentives for people to light the fronts of their homes.

In March, a group of neighborhood volunteers led by David Nyweide trimmed trees on selected streets throughout Bolton Hill. With support from both the Midtown Benefits District and Baltimore City, the group focused on trees identified in the lighting survey to improve nighttime lighting just in time for spring leafing.

As for Crime Stats, Major Jones reported at the March Board Meeting that there had been a total of 20 crime incidents this year in the the first two months vs 23 last year for the same period. Bolton Hill is part of the Central District, which is one of two city districts to see a reduction in overall crime recently.

The subcommittee reviewed the last 5 months of crime stats in our police post, which includes Bolton Hill and small sections of Reservoir Hill and Madison Park. Overall, they saw a dramatic decline in violent crimes over the last 8 weeks, as shown the graph below. 

Note: The information provided only includes arrests made within the month of the crime, and ancillary arrests are not always linked to all crimes committed by a single perpetrator. 

The Bulletin will continue to publish updates, including crime stat reports. from these subcommittees as each group evaluates and organizes efforts in these areas.

MRIA’s Safety Committee meets regularly on the last Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend and get involved. Meetings are held in different locations from month to month—see their event listing on the Bulletin calendar for more information.

Neighborhood News Briefs

The Bulletin Beefs Up 

Please welcome two new writers to the Bulletin volunteer staff: Gretta Brueck, who wrote the piece on Chainlines last month, and Claire Weber, who edited the Samaritan Community article in this month’s issue. We hope to see lots more of their work in upcoming issues.

The Bulletin could always use additional volunteers, including reporters, photographers, writers, and editors. If interested, please email us at bhbeditormail@gmail.com.

Changing MRIA’s Tax Status  

In order to allow tax-deductible contributions, MRIA is looking into changing the organization’s tax status from a 501(c)4 to a 501(c)3. We will keep membership informed on this effort.

Inaccurate Water Billing

At the March MRIA meeting, Larry Nunley from the Department of Public Works discussed recent changes to the city’s water bills. Being new to his post, Mr. Nunley wants to ensure that any concerns about water and other public works issues are addressed quickly. 

He encouraged everyone to reach out to him directly if they encounter a public works-related issue. You can either email him at Larry.Nunley@baltimorecity.gov or call his cell, 443-534-5074. (If it’s an emergency, always call 911.)

He explained that the DPW are installing new water meters that they are Wi-Fi-connected. As the new system comes online, it may initially create inaccurate bills.  He encouraged everyone to examine their bills to make sure it isn’t a duplicate. 

As billing switches from a quarterly to monthly cycle, consumers will find the new bills more transparent, as the fees for infrastructure, storm water, and the bay recovery are listed separately. Should you notice unusual charges, make an appointment with DPW to figure out whether your bill is higher than average.

Share Your Bolton Hill Story

At the March MRIA meeting, Single Carrot Theatre Artistic Director Genevieve de Mahy announced that they are creating a show called Promenade Baltimore. In June, Single Carrot will take the company on a bus to collect stories from the streets and neighborhoods of the city we all love.

She is looking for Bolton Hill residents to share and record stories to be played while the bus drives through our neighborhood. If you have a story to tell, contact our neighborhood liaison, Steven Skerritt-Davis, at swdavis80@gmail.com.

Terracotta detailing on Robert Street.
Terracotta detailing on Robert Street.

Terracotta Project

Don’t forget the Architectural Terracotta Residency project that will be happening at MICA from May 27 to June 17.

Bolton Hill residents are invited to submit photographs of historic architectural stones in or on their homes, along with stories or histories relevant to their home’s architecture. These will provide context for the artists’ consideration during the residency.

Please send photos and other submissions with your name to professor Mat Karas at mkaras@mica.edu with the subject heading “Bolton Hill Terracotta Project.”

You can also become a partner with MICA and the Bolton Hill ceramic residency by making a gift in support of the project at www.mica.edu/give or by calling 410-225-4259.

Eat a Chili Dinner to Send Kids to Camp This Summer

The MRIA Churches and Schools Committee will host its second annual Chili Dinner on Wednesday, April 19, 5-8 p.m. at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Park Avenue and Lafayette. 

Come and enjoy delicious homemade chili (meat and vegetarian available), cornbread, a bake sale and raffle.  

Tickets are only $10 per person, but you are always welcome to give more. Children 12 and under are admitted free.  

This fundraiser supports Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School’s weeklong outdoor educational program that every spring sends all sixth grade students to Northbay Adventure Camp, an environmental science and character education program in Cecil County. Last year’s event generated over $3,500 for the trip. The goal this year is $5,000.

With this year’s school budget crisis, such efforts are particularly needed. Join the tasty fun and lend your support.

Unified Purpose on Display at Town Hall Safety Meeting

Town Hall Safety Meeting
Panel addresses audience at the Town Hall Safety Meeting held last month.

By Barbie Klik, Safety Committee Chair

On February 1st, about 240 neighborhood residents and MICA students gathered to discuss how we can make Bolton Hill a safer community.

Facilitated by Reverend Grey Maggiano of Memorial Episcopal, the event was attended by Mayor Catherine Pugh, Commissioner Kevin Davis, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Councilman Eric Costello and others. The Town Hall Meeting notes includes a full list of panel guests and other details.

During the two-hour gathering, many ideas were exchanged and everyone walked away with a shared sense of purpose and strategies to make Bolton Hill safer. 

MICA President and Bolton Hill resident Sammy Hoi kicked off the event by describing how the community can engage MICA security. Hoi and MICA Security Director Marlon Byrd explained that MICA security guards, including both armed, off-duty police officers and unarmed officers, generally have four guards on neighborhood streets at all times. Although MICA guards do not have jurisdiction off of MICA property, they will assist any resident who requires assistance.

club cars
Midtown Benefit District’s new “Club Cars” will be on the streets in March.

Bolton Hill is one of the four neighborhoods covered by the Midtown Benefits District (MBD). Executive Director Michelle Wirzberger explained that they spend 21% of their budget on safety, some $250,000 annually, including 17 off-duty BPD officers who patrol the neighborhoods on a rotating basis.

MBD just received a small fleet of Club Cars to supplement its current security patrol capabilities. Used in conjunction with the Segways already in use, these cars will allow MBD officers to increase their patrol capacity by about 25%. Look for them on Bolton Hill’s streets beginning in early March.

State’s Attorney Mosby gave an impassioned description of the effects that community impact statements and community involvement can have during the criminal sentencing process. She explained that because her office has no control over sentences, community involvement at sentencing is the best way to influence the outcome for violent offenders.

State’s Attorney liaison Ashe Smith monitors the arrest and trial proceedings for violent crimes in the neighborhood and alerts the MRIA Safety Committee when sentencing is scheduled so that we can organize residents to show up. Mr. Smith reminded the audience of the importance of having victims testify at a trial, as many cases are thrown out due to a lack of witnesses.

Focusing on the juvenile justice system, Gavin Patashnik, Chief of Juvenile Justice for the State’s Attorney’s Office, outlined various diversion programs for juveniles, and encouraged the neighborhood to get involved with them.

In particular, Mr. Patashnik mentioned the excellent youth programs at Reservoir Hill’s St. Francis Neighborhood Center.  Coincidentally, the MRIA Social Action Task Force highlighted this organization, along with the Kids Safe Zone, during February’s Party with a Purpose. He also mentioned the Reading Partners mentoring program, another local organization which SATF has promoted and supported. See related article here. (See related article on St. Francis Neighborhood Center in this issue.)

Although laws limit the information that can be shared with the community regarding a specific juvenile crime, Mr. Patashnik noted that here too impact statements are effective for guiding sentencing. If the community is concerned about a crime involving a juvenile, Mr. Smith should be notified with the case number, so that he can advocate for our interests. Without such notification, the State’s Attorneys usually becomes aware of a case much later in the process due to the special rules governing the juvenile justice system.

Commissioner Davis, Chief Robinson and Major Jones of Baltimore City Police reiterated that if you see suspicious activity, call 911. Try to provide as much detail as possible, including height, hair characteristics, and clothing, especially descriptions of shirts and shoes, since a coat or sweater can be easily discarded.

Moreover, they reminded us that most crimes are based upon opportunity. Watch your surroundings and walk confidently, while avoiding the distraction of earbuds and displaying your phone as little as possible.

Police Lieutenant Samuel Hood III discussed CitiWatch, encouraging neighbors to send crime video directly to him via email to Samuel.hood@baltimorepolice.org. Include the date and location of incident, your name, address, email, phone number, description of perpetrator. Type and color of shoes are important, as are the clothes under the jacket.

The night finished with a discussion of the Community Conferencing Center by Founding Director Lauren Abramson. The group facilitates many mediation efforts, but a main focus is restorative justice. Similar to Truth and Reconciliation programs, the volunteer program brings together perpetrators, victims and both sets of families/supporters to discuss the crime and appropriate punishment. This approach has been shown to reduce recidivism and, more importantly, help victims of crime get closure. (See related article on Community Conferencing in this issue.)

The event is already producing results as more neighbors met recently to ramp up the work of the Safety Committee. Email Barbie at barbie.klik@blackrock.com if you are interested in working on this committee. And stay tuned for updates on these efforts in the Bulletin.

Safety Recommendations from MICA Security, BPD, and MRIA:

  • Keep porch lights on at night.
  • Install lights near garages, back fences, parking areas, dark spaces.
  • Trim trees and shrubs that can be used to hide criminal activity.
  • Install private cameras.
  • After you report a crime, also send the information to BHEN (linda.rittelmann@gmail.com) to ensure that the neighborhood is on alert. 
  • Walk with a dog or another person or use the Companion App.
  • Carry a whistle or a boat air horn.
  • If you are inside your house and hear a whistle, look outside to determine if someone needs help.  Call 911 immediately. Help if it is safe to do so. 
  • Don’t talk on cell phone or use ear plugs while walking during the day or night.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Engage with people on the street. Make eye contact and say hello. 
  • Report suspicious behavior to police using 911 (not 311).
  • Always lock your car doors and remove any and ALL items from the car—even empty fast food bags or trash. Any items left in the car can tempt criminals. 
  • Join COP (Citizens on Patrol)*.
  • Follow court cases; go to court during trial; file an impact statement with the court.
  • Get to know your neighbors at block parties and other neighborhood events. 
  • Get involved. 25% of city residents are living in poverty, and you can take social action. Join Big Brothers/Big Sisters or the MRIA Social Action Task Force

*COP is increasing the number of groups walking the neighborhood, at night and in the mornings. Barry and Barbara Blumberg coordinate an evening walk every Thursday evening starting from 1329 Bolton (410-669-0175 or theblumbergs@earthlink.net).

Jonathan Claiborne leads a walk every Monday evening beginning at the corner of Bolton and Lafayette (jeclaiborne10@gmail.com), and Jack Brown leads a walk on Monday and Wednesday mornings (reach him at NextDoor). 

Community Conferencing Reduces Crime and Empowers Communities

Dr. Lauren Abramson spoke to February’s Town Hall Safety Meeting about her work with a new method for providing resolution to victims and perpetrators in the aftermath of crimes. We wanted to learn more about her Community Conferencing Center.

Lauren Abramson and the Community Conferencing Center
Lauren Abramson and the Community Conferencing Center.

In 1994, Dr. Lauren Abramson attended a conference in Philadelphia and heard a talk on Transformative Justice by Australian David Moore. This led to participating in the first facilitator training workshops on restorative justice conducted in the United States.

As she learned more, Lauren became keenly interested in bringing community conferencing to inner-city Baltimore. She saw its potential to not only bring about important system reforms in criminal justice and education, but to also empower individuals, families and communities to resolve their own conflicts and crimes.

After years of work, the Community Conferencing Center (CCC) opened its doors in 2000. The CCC is the only broad-based conferencing program in a large American inner-city. Even more noteworthy, most its services are provided at no cost to participants.

Widely recognized for its use of restorative justice and conflict management strategies, the model developed by CCC has found success in a variety of settings, including criminal justice, education, community development and business, addressing a variety of issues and a wide range of populations.

They now serve as a hub for training and technical assistance in Maryland, working in over a dozen jurisdictions. With requests for assistance from other states as well as countries, the center works nationally and internationally to help communities establish similar restorative justice programs.

The Process Works

The CCC takes a radical approach: they provide ways for people to resolve situations and build community by sitting in a circle and talking with each other.

Based on the principles of conflict transformation and community justice, the CCC provides ways for people to safely, collectively and effectively prevent and resolve conflicts and crime.

This approach has been uniquely effective at resolving the conflicts around crime between the victims and the perpetrators. Nearly 20,000 people in Baltimore have successfully resolved their own crimes and conflicts using the CCC.

The results speak for themselves:

  • Over 95% of the community conferences conducted result in a written agreement, with an over 90% compliance rate.
  • Young people who participate in a successful community conference re-offend at a rate 60% lower than those who go through the juvenile justice system.
  • For juvenile felony cases diverted to community conferences instead of going through the court system, young people are half as likely to be re-arrested after 1 year, and a third as likely after 2 years.
  • Community conferencing costs a tenth of what it costs to go through the courts.

Community conferencing creates a fourfold benefit by holding offenders accountable and including victims in deciding outcomes, while lowering repeat offenders and reducing costs.

Learn more on the Community Conferencing website.

Join the MRIA Board

The Mt. Royal Improvement Association seeks new members for its Board each year. The Nominating Committee, chaired by Past President Steve Howard, is seeking interested neighbors who are interested in joining the Board.

If you or someone you know would be interested, please email Steve at stevehoward.howard@gmail.com.

DEADLINE for submissions is March 15, so write to Steve today.

The next MRIA Board Meeting will be Tuesday, March 7 with socializing at 7:30 and the formal meeting at 8 pm. Open to all.

Traffic Survey Needs Your Input

Many thanks to those of you who have helped MRIA’s Traffic Committee promote pedestrian and motorist safety in Bolton Hill by providing input through their online survey. If you haven’t yet taken the survey, it’s not too late!

Follow this link to complete the four-page survey.

Your responses will help MRIA prioritize safety initiatives and provide vitally important observations to support requests for traffic studies at problem intersections throughout Bolton Hill.

There is strength in numbers, so please help out.

If you’d like to get involved with the MRIA Traffic Committee, please contact Steven Skerritt-Davis, swdavis80@gmail.com.

Time to Renew Parking Permits

All current residential parking permits will expire March 31. You may renew and pay for your permits online at the Parking Authority website beginning February 20. Residents who are new to an RPP area must apply for permits in person. More information about residential parking permits is available here.

Permits and visitors passes are $20 each.

Purchase your permits online at least three days before you plan to pick up. Bolton Hill has scheduled two Neighborhood Pickup Days, Saturday, March 18, from 8 am to 12 noon, and Saturday, March 25, from 8 am to 1:30 pm, at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church on Lafayette and Park Ave. Enter at the Lafayette St. door.

You can also obtain your permits at the Parking Authority Office, 200 W. Lombard Street, Suite B, 21201. Office hours are 8 am–5 pm, Monday through Friday. Plus, the office will be open for one Saturday, March 18 from 9 am to 1 pm, and open late one night, Thursday, March 30 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. Whether at a Neighborhood Pickup or at the Parking Authority Office, you will need to present current documentation when picking up your 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 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.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Parking Authority at rpp@bcparking.com or 443-573-2800, extensions 863, 845, or 851. You may also contact your Area 3 representative, Patsy Andrews, by email at pandrewsmd@yahoo.com.

When you pick up your passes, give a big thanks to Patsy, who has organized our convenient neighborhood pickup for many years.

Town Hall on Safety Scheduled for February 1

The Brown Center at MICA

Recent events in Bolton Hill have raised concerns about safety. In response, MRIA’s Safety Committee and MICA have organized a Town Hall Meeting on Safety for Wednesday, February 1, 6–8 pm in Falvey Hall (1300 W. Mt. Royal Avenue), the large auditorium on the lower floor of the all-glass Brown Center on the MICA campus. Everyone is invited to this community-wide meeting. 

The meeting will focus on prevention and the specific actions each of us can take to make Bolton Hill safer for all.

Reverend Grey Maggiano (Memorial Episcopal) will moderate. Attendees will hear from Sammy Hoi (President of MICA), Major Kevin Jones (Central District Police Commander, Baltimore Police Department), Marlon Byrd, (Director of Campus Safety, MICA), Eric Costello (City Councilman), Ashe Smith (Liaison the State Attorney’s Office), and Michael Marcus (President, MRIA.)

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, Mayor Catherine Pugh, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and City Council President Jack Young have been invited but not yet confirmed.

The program will allow time for plenty of questions from the audience. Attendees will be invited to submit questions in writing at the event, as the organizers want to ensure that all of questions are addressed, even if time runs out.

Vendors representing security systems, outdoor camera installers, and safety lighting will be on hand to answer questions, and provide details and discounts on their products. Plus, volunteers will demonstrate how to set up the “Find My Phone” app.

 

SATF Potluck with a Purpose and Plans for 2017

On Sunday, December 11, MRIA’s Social Action Task Force (SATF) organized a Potluck Party with a Purpose. In the aftermath of this year’s divisive elections, the SATF thought more neighbors might want to get involved in their community-building efforts.

Over 30 attended the meeting with dishes in hand. SATF reviewed the group’s accomplishments and looked forward to projects planned for 2017.

SATF Potluck, December 2016
People attending the SATF Potluck in December review the group’s accomplishments in 2016.

SATF members explained the group’s establishment by MRIA in the wake of the unrest in spring 2015. Following those events, neighbors wanted to find ways that residents could make a positive impact in the 21217 community.

At that time, they developed the following mission statement: “To encourage, facilitate, and initiate personal engagement between the Bolton Hill neighborhood and the surrounding 21217 community. By highlighting the many great organizations serving our community, we hope that our collective efforts will create a more healthy, vibrant, just, and safe community for everyone.”

The group decided to focus their efforts on supporting existing organizations in the neighborhood, rather than setting their own agenda. They chose three methods for supporting these organizations:

  1. Organizing Parties with a Purpose
  2. Creating and promoting a Community Asset List to facilitate and encourage more neighborhood involvement
  3. Organizing neighborhood efforts to actively support organizations  

Thus far, the SATF has organized five Parties with a Purpose, as well as a book drive for Reading Partners and a Stoop Party group walk to the No Boundaries Block Party last June. They also published the Community Asset List on the Bolton Hill Bulletin website and published a Holiday Volunteer Guide to encourage neighbors to volunteer for local organizations during the holidays.

SATF events have collected approximately $2,000 in donations and have funneled volunteers and other support to twelve non-profit organizations serving the 21217 area. This Powerpoint slideshow provides an overview of the SATF’s impact thus far.

Potluck attendees went on to discuss plans for 2017, coming up with many creative suggestions. The SATF collected these Potluck Wall Responses to a series of questions that were posted around the meeting room.

The SATF encourages everyone to get involved by attending one of their monthly meetings or their next Party with a Purpose. If you’d rather donate money or have volunteer time, review the Community Asset List and Holiday Volunteer Guide for ideas.

The next SATF meeting is scheduled for Sunday, January 8, 5 pm at 1309 Bolton St. (Kellie’s & Rob’s house.) On the agenda: planning the next Party with a Purpose, slated for sometime this winter.

Bake Sale Raises Money for Mt. Royal Elementary

In October, neighbors Powell Perng and Stacy Wells met with Principal Grotsky at Mt. Royal Elementary to discuss fundraising goals.

From that meeting, Stacy saw an opportunity to raise additional funds by selling baked goods at the Bolton Hill Garden Club Greens Sale at Brown Memorial Church. The proceeds from the bake sale would go towards funding a 6th-grade student for the annual NorthBay Adventure Camp trip in May 2017.

The camp is a week-long overnight camp where students learn about leadership, environmental stewardship, and teamwork.

MRIA’s Churches and Schools Committee offered to donate baked goods, and, led by famed holiday bakers Marjorie Forster and Barbara Francis, they supplied a sleigh-full of treats for the sale.  In all, $267 was raised by the sale, enough to subsidize 1 or 2 summer camp attendees.

Thanks, Stacy and Powell, for your organizational efforts!

New Bulletin Feature: Meet Our Sponsors

With the beginning of a new year, we are introducing a new monthly feature, Meet Our Sponsors, to the Bolton Hill Bulletin. 

Each month, we’ll highlight one of the wonderful group of businesses and organizations that provide financial support for the publication of the Bulletin, as well as general funding for MRIA’s many other projects.

Most of our sponsors have been with us for years, and we are very grateful for their loyal support. But the new year brings some new faces, including C&H Restoration and Chainlines, plus our featured sponsor this month, The Brass Tap. We offer all of them a warm welcome and our sincere thanks.

We hope this feature will help all of us know more about our neighborhood, and we encourage you to support our sponsors as they support us.

TIP for readers: Click on a sponsor’s ad to go to their website for additional information (try it). You can also find an alphabetical listing for all our sponsors with their contact information on our Sponsor page (or, from the main menu at the top of each page, click on “Sponsors”).

We still have openings for two additional sponsors this year. If you or someone you know might be interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact the editors at bhbeditormail@gmail.com for more information.

SATF Potluck with a Purpose

Decorating Pumpkins at October's Halloween fest
Decorating Pumpkins at October’s Halloween fest

Got the post election blues? Want to join your neighbors in accomplishing projects that will help our community?

Then join the party at the next Social Action Task Force event – a Potluck with a Purpose on Sunday, December 11 from 6 to 8 pm in the Upper Parish Hall of Memorial Episcopal Church (enter on the Lafayette St. side).

Please bring something to share, both food and wine or other beverages.

The group will first review their mission with MRIA and the work that’s been completed in 2016 as preparation for the main focus of the meeting – discussing the SATF’s goals and plans for 2017.

Seeking A Few Great Sponsors

sponsorsAs we roll into 2017, the Bolton Hill Bulletin has a few openings for new sponsors. If your business or organization is interested in reaching, as well as supporting, our neighborhood, please consider becoming one of our 24 sponsors.

In the past year, advertisements on the Bulletin website were displayed between between 400–1,200 times each day, varying widely depending on the time of month. On release dates at the beginning of each month, the number of ad views have exceeded 2,000.

Compare this online advertising to the number of views possible in our printed newsletter (discontinued in 2016), which was distributed to just a few hundred subscribers once per month, read once or a few times, and then discarded.

Since Bulletin readers can access all of the articles, event listings, neighborhood news and past issues anytime they want – 24/7— it doesn’t take much figuring to see how much potential exposure your business or organization will receive by supporting the online Bulletin.

Truly, this is a win for everyone, as you will be supporting both the Bulletin and the work of the Mount Royal Improvement Association.

What’s the Deal?

Each sponsor’s individual ad rotates randomly into the four ad spaces that appear in the right hand column of each web page. A different set of ads appears in the ad spaces each time a web page is opened by a reader, so each business or organization gets an equal share of views.

Since we limit the total number of sponsors to a maximum of 24, on average, your ad will appear on every 6th page opened by any visitor. Plus, each ad provides a clickable link directly to your website, so that readers can find more information about you.

The Bulletin‘s main menu, which appears at the top of the page, prominently displays the link to our Sponsors’ Page, with an alphabetical listing of all our sponsors. Each sponsor’s listing can include contact information, a short tagline or description and an additional link to their website. This listing basically functions as a second ad for no extra charge.

In 2017, we are also adding a new feature. Each issue will include a Meet Our Sponsors post that will highlight one or two of our sponsors. The editors will work with you to craft a short piece that introduces your business or organization to our readers by highlighting your work.

Our rates remain the same for 2017 as they have been for years, $180/year for a full-size ad in all eleven issues and a full year of online presence, providing great value for your advertising dollar.

If you or someone you know might be interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact the editors at bhbeditormail@gmail.com for more information.

Madison Park North Redevelopment Announced

On September 26, the Coalition for the Redevelopment of Madison Park North announced that the redevelopment of the subsidized housing complex at the southern end of Reservoir Hill would move forward with two longtime Baltimore developers.

Madison Park North as it currently stands.
Madison Park North as it currently stands.

The developers, Mark Renbaum of MLR Partners and David Bramble of MCB Real Estate, have communicated to representatives of the Friends of Reservoir Hill that they intend to work with the community to provide buildings that will be sensitive to residents’ needs and desires, as well as the style of the neighborhood. They envision the redevelopment serving as a gateway to West Baltimore and consisting of apartments, retail, and an Innovation Center to be used by MICA and Coppin State University.

Madison Park North redevelopment rendering
Architects’ rendering of Madison Park North redevelopment.

Demolition of Madison Park North is slated to begin within the next couple months. Market analysis will inform the rebuilding plans that will follow. The redevelopment will encompass the one and a half blocks that was the site of the former housing complex, the liquor store at the corner of Linden and North Avenues, and a new three-story building next door to Total Health Care.

The Coalition for the Redevelopment of Madison Park North meets on the fourth Monday of every month at 7 pm at the St. Francis Neighborhood Center in Reservoir Hill.

Mt. Royal Streetscaping to Begin Spring 2017

bike-lanesBy Steve Howard

As many of you may recall, the city has long planned to install bicycle lanes along Mt. Royal Avenue. Almost three years ago, after a public meeting in February 2014, and discussion at the April 2014 MRIA board meeting, John Kyle, then-president of MRIA, wrote a letter to the Director of Transportation, explaining a number of our concerns. After another public meeting on August 1, 2016 at University of Baltimore and several more meetings, many of those concerns have been addressed, and the plan is moving forward.

There will be two-directional bicycle traffic along the north/east side of Mt. Royal Avenue, separated from traffic lanes. While it is impossible at this time to extend the bike lanes all the way to North and Guilford avenues, the city hopes to add those extensions in the future.

Special pedestrian-friendly crossing signals will be implemented at the busiest intersections. These signals go to “walk” five seconds before the traffic light in the same direction goes green, which allows pedestrians to get well into the crosswalk before turning drivers usurp their right of way.

To accommodate these changes, the median of Mt. Royal Avenue will be slightly narrowed, and some trees will be removed and replaced. Although technically outside the scope of this project, the city also has committed to repairing the sidewalks in front of the houses along the 1400 and 1500 blocks of Mt. Royal.

Construction is expected to start in spring of 2017. The city intends to divert much of the northbound traffic to Charles St. and the JFX onramp at Penn Station. We hope that some of that diversion will be permanent.

The Dolphin Building disappears, as the site is readied for a new MICA building
The Dolphin Building disappears, as the site is readied for a new MICA building

In a separate project just off Mt. Royal near the Light Rail Station, the Dolphin Building has been torn down and the site is being prepared for construction of a new MICA building. Watch this space as this building project moves forward.

The Baltimore Bikeshare program will also launch soon. Residents will be able to use a bike for a small fee, allowing them to get around more easily when they don’t really need to drive. More info on proposed locations, including those in and around Bolton Hill is available at https://www.bmorebikeshare.com. A limited number of Founding Member passes were still available for purchase as of press time.

Fall Crime Stats and Safety Tips

The Safety and Security Committee reported at MRIA’s October meeting about crime trends in the neighborhood over the past few years, measures undertaken by Baltimore Police and MICA to respond to recent upticks in crime, and things residents can do to improve neighborhood safety.

2015 saw a 138% increase in violent crime compared to 2014. This year, violent crime is down 35% from last summer and 39% for the entire year to date. However, the violent crime rate this year to date is still up 44% this year in comparison to 2014.

Bolton Hill crime statistics for 2014-2016 compiled by MRIA's Safety Committee
Bolton Hill crime statistics for 2014-2016 compiled by MRIA’s Safety Committee

In the past year, Baltimore Police and MICA have increased patrols in the neighborhood. Baltimore Police has a car stationed in the neighborhood during the swing shift, and we can often get an overtime car. MICA now has 3 to 4 officers on duty at all times, increased from 1-2 officers, and can have up to 6 officers on duty at peak times.

Even with increased coverage, patrol can’t be everywhere at every minute. The Safety Committee would like to remind residents of common-sense steps everyone can take to promote safety in Bolton Hill.

  1. Talk to your neighbors. Keep each another informed!
  2. Call 911, not 311. Report all crimes to the police by calling 911. You can also submit a report online. If calling in a report, be sure to ask for an incident report number.
  3. Report incidents to BHEN. Send information about any incidents to BHEN@boltonhill.org. Serious incidents are crossposted on BHEN, NextDoor (https://boltonhill.nextdoor.com), and MRIA’s Facebook page.
  4. Install a security camera. If you are interested in installing security cameras on your property, check out this FAQ.
  5. Join the Citizens on Patrol (COP). COP is increasing the number of groups out walking the neighborhood, at night and in the mornings. Barry and Barbara Blumberg coordinate an evening walk every Thursday evening starting from 1329 Bolton (410-669-0175 or theblumbergs [at] earthlink.net), Jonathan Claiborne leads a walk every Monday evening beginning at the corner of Bolton and Lafayette (jeclaiborne10 [at] gmail.com), and Jack Brown leads a walk on Monday and Wednesday mornings (reach him at NextDoor).
  6. Get the Companion app. The popular Companion app, which alerts a friend to walk with you virtually, can be found online herebSafe is another app that also tracks your movements and shares them with selected friends; find it online here.
  7. Stay lit. Leave your front and back lights on at night, and report any dysfunctional street lights to 311.
  8. Lock things up. Keep your back gate locked and make sure all other locks on your property are working properly.

Cameras and Communication: MRIA updates

MRIA focused on two important topics at their first meeting following the summer break, held, as always, on the first Tuesday of the month: security cameras and the new neighborhood communication plan.

security-cameraSecurity Cameras

At September’s Board meeting, the Safety and Security Task Force updated attendees on the Security Camera Initiative. With Jill Kingery recently stepping down from this task force (a big thanks to her for all the hard work), the reins have been picked up by co-chairs Barbie Klik and Richard Dunfee.

To take a proactive stance toward neighborhood security, the Task Force, with the help of neighbor David Scott, conducted an email survey which revealed that at least 60 people in the neighborhood were interested in finding out more about security cameras.

They then researched how individual households could install such cameras to protect their own property and increase security for neighbors. Once installed, cameras can be registered with CitiWatch to provide information to police if a crime occurs nearby.

The Task Force has posted a great deal of valuable information online in a Google Drive folder. If you don’t already have one, you will need a free Google account to access this folder.

The information includes a fact sheet that provides lots of tips for installing a system, including the pros and cons of different types of cameras and professional vs. DIY installation. David noted that some homeowners’ insurance policies provide discounts if security cameras are installed.

The information folder also contains sample proposals from three contractors deemed suitable for installing systems on houses in historic neighborhoods. These installers have agreed to provide a discount to Bolton Hill residents in support of this effort.

David reminded everyone that all exterior projects, including camera installations, should be presented to the Architecture Review Committee for approval before proceeding.

Communications PlanMRIA Communications Plan Including a NEW Website

Under the direction of Second Vice President Linda Rittelmann, MRIA has undertaken a major and much-needed update to all of its communications systems, including email,the Bolton Hill Electronic Network (BHEN), social media and other online resources.

As part of this effort, all communications to MRIA members and BHEN have been consolidated onto the same platform, providing an easier, more secure and more stable tool for these important messages.

The next step is to build a new website to replace BoltonHill.org, which was state-of-the-art at one time, but is now in desperate need of an overhaul. With Executive Committee backing and Board approval at September’s meeting, work is underway to identify a professional website designer to build the new site. A budget of up to $5,000 was approved for this project, and an RFP has been circulated.

It is hoped that the new website will be live in early winter 2017.

If you know a web designer to recommend, or if you yourself would be interested in bidding on this work, please email Linda at Linda.Rittelmann [at] gmail.com.

As part of these changes, the Bulletin Board and Home Improvement Directory are no longer available. The new, improved website will resurrect the Home Improvement Resource Directory in a new format to allow crowd sourced input and recommendations.

However, the Bulletin Board communications are being replaced by the MRIA Facebook page and with NextDoor, a private, web-based bulletin board that provides the same functionality as the Bolton Hill Bulletin Board did, but with more features. Both services are free.

Next Meeting & More

The next MRIA Board Meeting will be on Tuesday, October 4 at 8 pm in Farnham Hall at Memorial Episcopal Church. Socializing and light refreshments start at 7:30 PM. Everyone is welcome to attend.

This issue of the Bulletin also details two other items mentioned at MRIA’s September’s meeting:

Privette Sentenced Sept. 21

The sentencing hearing in the state’s case against Michael Privette, convicted of multiple sexual assaults, including in Bolton Hill, took place on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

As reported in the Baltimore Sun, Privette pleaded guilty to four instances of sexual assault and was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison with all but 40 years suspended.

Six women and three men from Bolton Hill attended the hearing in support of the victims. A community victim impact statement was written on behalf of the neighborhood and submitted to Assistant State’s Attorney Trey Perkins, who read the statement before Judge Wanda K. Heard.

The hearing closed this case just a year after the Bolton Hill crimes occurred. For more on the hearing and the cases involved, please see the full Sun article.