Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Designing a New Streetscape for North Avenue in 2014

Older residents remember North Avenue as tree-lined, and as a vibrant place where people shopped, ate, and went in and out of the communities attached to North Avenue.  How to redevelop North Avenue as the asset it once was for communities bordering the street has been a long standing question.  

 In 2006, a set of west side community organizations held a series of meetings to discuss a more strategic approach to improvements along North Avenue.  Independently, Reservoir Hill residents have worked hard at cleaning and beautifying the median strip along our stretch of North Avenue.  Most of the plantings you see along those strips is their work.  And the CHOICE Neighborhoods planning process led by Jubilee Baltimore has developed some options for sections of North Avenue. However, none of these efforts have produced an actual plan for the full stretch of North Avenue cutting through central-west Baltimore.

2014 might just be the year for creating such a broadly-supported plan.

In autumn 2013, Councilman Nick Mosby’s office helped pull together a partnership of Coppin Heights CDC, Druid Heights CDC, and RHIC to create a new street scape plan for North Avenue from Charles west to Hilton.  The partners are working with Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) from January 2014 into autumn 2014 to create the design.  Very importantly, the Baltimore City Department of Transportation (DOT) has committed staff to the project.   DOT’s participation is vital in order to ensure that the product emerging from this planning process will be able to be used by the city. We don’t need another document that sits on a shelf. We need a tool for actively transforming North Avenue.

NDC has recruited pro bono professionals to work with task forces in the communities represented by the three community partners.  Each community task force will consist of up to five members of a core group, which will design a community engagement strategy that maximizes community involvement in the design process. We need the ideas and energy of every community member early on.

The Reservoir Hill core group is being assembled with one RHIC Board Member, one RHIC staff member, one Housing & Development Team member, one person from south of North Avenue, and another to be selected by the core group.

The first gathering of all the NDC staff and volunteers, community core groups, DOT staff, and Councilman Mosby’s office is being held this month.  The goals for this meeting are to:
  • Establish direct lines of communication between NDC volunteer design teams and core community project teams.
  • Create a list of up to 3 main goals for the streetscape within each section of corridor.
  • Create a list of additional project stakeholders that should be invited to participate in the design process.
  • Create an initial community engagement plan for each section of corridor.
Since our January Community Meeting was cancelled due to the snow storm, Reservoir Hill residents can expect the first public meeting on the design process by early March. We will also be reporting developments and ideas that are being floated in each monthly Community Briefing, on the RHIC blogs, and at each community meeting.

Our intention is to have the first set of public meetings and other outreach done by April, so we can develop an initial draft plan, which will then be presented at public venues and revised, with the goal of having a finished document in October 2014.

The resources, community networks, professional expertise, partnerships, and city participation all exist to make this a reality.  We will keep the community well informed of any progress in the planning process.  In the meantime, if you want to help or discuss the project further, contact Rick Gwynallen at Reservoir Hill Improvement Council; 410.225.7547; rgwynallen@reservoirhill.net

No comments: