September Compass - The GRAMA Master Plan

Image of West Baltimore rowhomes with Compass Logo
The Compass is a monthly eNewsletter of the Baltimore City Department of Planning.

September, 2012

A Message from the Director…
Good planning relies on the active participation of concerned citizens and community groups.  Our Community Planning team works hard to involve communities throughout Baltimore in a wide variety of planning-related decisions that impact their neighborhoods and the City as a whole.
The West Baltimore neighborhoods that surround Coppin State University, the Mondawmin Mall, and the West Baltimore MARC Station have come together, and have worked with their community planner to develop a strategic area master plan that will help guide the future development of their collective communities.
I am pleased to present an overview of this ongoing planning process as the Department of Planning prepares to release the DRAFT Greater Rosemont and Mondawmin Area (GRAMA) Master Plan. 
This plan is but one example of the planning efforts underway right now in Baltimore City.  By highlighting it in this issue of The Compass, we hope to inspire other neighborhoods to join together and embrace the opportunity to work with City agencies on improvement initiatives, both large and small.

Thomas J. Stosur, Director



The Baltimore City Charter requires that the Planning Commission annually prepare a six-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
The first year of each six-year program becomes the capital budget for the upcoming fiscal year and is the basis for the capital component of the Ordinance of Estimates, which is adopted by City Council.
The CIP is a very important role of the Planning Department, and the projects have the potential to transform communities.  So each month The Compass will highlight a project from the City’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
This month’s featured project is the new Morrell Park Recreation Center at 2501 Whittington Ave.
Rendering of Future Morrell Park Center

The Morrell Park Recreation Center

In February 2012, construction began on a new Morrell Park Community Center.   The 15,450 SF facility will include a multipurpose room, kitchen, office, locker room, restrooms and full gymnasium.   
The recreation center was formerly a school wing, but as the school grew, the recreation activities were forced into a portable building.   Once the new building is complete (Spring 2013), the recreation activities will be located in a brand new building in a park setting with access to a playground, basketball court and baseball fields.  
The building design includes green technology, particularly a green roof and geothermal heating.   
Total Construction Cost: $3.9 million.
Baltimore City CIP: General Obligation (G.O.) Bonds, $1.95 million.
 The remaining $1.95 million comes from State Open Space Matching Grants.

What are G.O. Bonds?

With voter approval, the City borrows money for specific capital improvements by selling General Obligation Bonds or G.O. Bonds. G.O. bonds are debts secured by the full faith and credit of the City. Every two years, including 2012, G.O. bonds are presented to voters for approval on the November ballot.  G.O. Bonds are used for a variety of capital projects, including schools, parks, and libraries.

Introducing ...

A plan for the Greater Rosemont and Mondawmin Area (GRAMA)

Map of GRAMA Planning Area
The Greater Rosemont and Mondawmin Area Master Plan (GRAMA) includes the areas surrounding Coppin State University (CSU), the greater Mondawmin neighborhoods, Baltimore City Community College (BCCC), and the communities around the West Baltimore MARC Station.
In 2005, CSU led the effort to write the Greater Rosemont and Coppin Heights Revitalization Plan, which created a comprehensive vision for this area.
Since the publication of the Plan, many new developments have taken place on the CSU Campus and in surrounding communities. CSU has moved forward with its development plans, expanding the campus’ foot print south of North Avenue, and farther north to Gwynns Falls Parkway. This expansion has created a direct connection between the neighborhoods surrounding the West Baltimore MARC station, Mondawmin Mall and the neighborhoods near BCCC’s growing campus. CSU is also progressing with additions to the Campus with a future Science and Technology building and proposals for additional student housing and mixed use commercial areas near the campus.
Image of Citizens at Workshop
Expansion of both CSU and BCCC, coupled with proposed improvements at the West Baltimore MARC station and planning activities for the upcoming Redline transit corridor, triggered this update of the adopted 2005 Plan.
Through a series of community meetings and design workshops, Planning staff worked with stakeholders in the GRAMA Plan geography to express the collective vision of the larger community and to provide community members with a tool that can be used to guide policy and community action.  The purpose of the GRAMA Master Plan is to communicate the community’s vision for its future growth and development, and to provide a roadmap of strategies to help the community achieve that vision.
Image of New Home During Construction

Showing Progress:

New homes being constructed in Coppin Heights, (Left) and the final results(below).

Image of new homes after construction was completed

The neighborhoods which make up the Greater Rosemont and Mondawmin Area share numerous community assets and concerns. Due to these commonalities it makes sense that these neighborhoods should work together to push a consistent vision for the area. The vision presented in the GRAMA Master Plan incorporates many of the recommendations of previous area plans and adds new ideas presented by community members in recent community meetings.
Through the plan, the community has defined its vision for the area as a community of safe, desirable, and attractive neighborhoods where housing options, education, and access to neighborhood services support a full and balanced range of activities and social interaction. The goal of the vision is to remove blight, improve neighborhood desirability, and create positive change by rebuilding where necessary and reinforcing the more stable areas.
A sampling of the key implementation strategies includes:
Economic Development: Activate North Avenue and nearby neighborhoods by strategically locating Coppin State University facilities and services off-campus.
Economic Development - Re-envision the Rosemont Industrial area as a more compatible and beneficial asset to the community.
Greening - Transform vacant lots from liabilities to assets that provide social and environmental benefits.
Neighborhood Revitalization - Strengthen enforcement of the sanitation code.
The DRAFT Plan will be available for review on September 10, 2012 at
Planning Commission review of the plan is tentatively planned for October 18, 2012. For more information, please contact: Kate Edwards 410-396-5934 or
map of community planning districts

Get to Know Your Community Planner

If you have planning questions or would like to find out more about planning in your community, your Community Planner can help.  Click here or the map on the left to get a list of community planners and their contact information.


Coming Soon...

The legislative version of the proposed new Zoning Code will be available soon.  Next month's Compass will have more information as TransForm moves to its next phase.
For background information, check our website, here.