INSPIRE Looks Back at 2019

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Seminoles cheerleaders at Catherine Street Park celebration

Seminoles cheerleaders enjoy the Catherine Street Park celebration (National Recreation and Parks Association)

INSPIRE: Investing in Neighborhoods & Schools
to Promote Improvement, Revitalization, and Excellence

Looking Back at 2019 (January 2020)


INSPIRE is Baltimore City’s effort to bolster the State’s investment into the school system through the 21st Century Schools Initiative. INSPIRE focuses on neighborhoods immediately surrounding schools modernized through the school construction program, generating activity and investment to support children’s learning and to improve neighborhood conditions.

Ribbon Cutting at John Ruhrah

Principal Donnelly, Alison Perkins-Cohen, and students cut the ribbon at John Ruhrah (21st Century Schools/BCPSS)

2020 Kicks-off with Three 21st Century Schools Reopening

Less than one week into the new year, children and adults from Baltimore and around the state celebrated the reopening of three 21st Century School buildings: Bay Brook Elementary/ Middle, Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary/ Middle, and John Ruhrah Elementary/ Middle. That makes 14 schools modernized through the program so far. An event with elected officials, program partners, principals, and students was held at Bay Brook on January 4th, and open houses took place at all of the schools. Photos will be available soon on the 21st Century web site. The 21st Century program is a partnership between the Maryland Interagency Commission on School Construction, the Maryland Stadium Authority, the Baltimore City Public School System, and the City of Baltimore. 

11th INSPIRE Plan Adopted

On June 20th the Planning Commissioners traveled to Benjamin Franklin HS in Curtis Bay to hear and adopt the Bay Brook Elementary/Middle School INSPIRE plan. Implementation of recommendations have been taking place, in advance of the new building's opening in January. Visit the web site to see the final plan.

Planning Commission Adoption of Bay Brook INSPIRE Plan

Improving Streetscapes: By the Numbers

New sidewalk in front of Filbert Street Garden

Streetscape improvements along primary walking routes are one of the most immediate investments around 21st Century schools. In addition to beautifying the neighborhood, these improvements help ensure safer pedestrian access to the schools for students and everyone using the school building. To date, DOT has fixed deficient sidewalks along approximately 26.53 miles and re-striped over 26 crosswalks, and Tree Baltimore (BCRP) has planted over 1,000 street trees. 

INSPIRE Implementation: A Snapshot

INSPIRE has been partnering with individuals, organizations, and agencies to implement plan recommendations. Here’s a sample of what happened in 2019.

Local and State Agencies Incentivize Home Improvement around Park Heights Schools

Rehabbing houses near Arlington

Over the summer, the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) made available INSPIRE incentives to help stabilize neighborhoods and promote new investment around Pimlico E/MS and Arlington ES. A total of $500,000 in each area was allocated through local impact aid (slots funding) to develop vacant properties (up to $50,000 per award) and $250,000 to assist homeowners with repairs (up to $10,000 per award). This collaboration between DOP and HCD illustrates how City agencies are supporting multiple important priorities. Visit the website to learn more about the development incentives and contact the Department of Homeownership at 410-396-3124 to learn about the homeowner repair grants. Additionally, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development awarded Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc. (CHAI) $100,000 through the Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative program to support redevelopment of vacant homes in this area.

Agencies and Non-Government Organizations Help Enhance Community Connections

INSPIRE Path Projects

Fordney Lane, Seabury, and Farring-Baybrook

Community projects funded through INSPIRE create or improve places for residents to play, be active, and socialize with each other. These recent projects focus on connecting people and places.

  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) began reclaiming Fordney Lane, an overgrown pedestrian alley across from Forest Park HS. The alley leads directly to the steps of the original 1924 school building, which were preserved during school construction. The project has added lights and cleared the overgrowth and debris. Exposed aggregate will be added in the spring, creating an attractive walkway.
  • DOT began to turn a highly-trafficked right-of-way into an accessible and protected
    walking path and gathering place in the heart of Cherry Hill
    , where both Arundel ES and Cherry Hill E/MS opened last year. Multiple partners including South Church, Cherry Hill Community Coalition, Youth Resiliency Institute, Family Health Centers of Baltimore, and the schools will work with residents to activate and personalize the space.
  • The Mission Continues mobilized veterans from across the country and other volunteers in June to kickoff improving a path in Farring Baybrook Park. The wooded path connects Bay Brook E/MS and the Farring Baybrook Rec Center to the William J. Myers Pavilion and Curtis Bay E/MS, as well as the new CSX Field. Baltimore City Recreation and Parks will be making additional improvements.

City of Refuge Becomes the City’s Newest Resiliency Hub

City of Refuge_Where Good Works

Baltimore City’s Office of Sustainability leads the City’s Resiliency Hub Initiative in partnership with other City agencies and local community-based organizations. Resiliency Hubs are intended to be safe places for nearby residents to gather and access resources during times of emergency or severe weather events. The Hubs are directly connected with the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management and are equipped with key emergency management supplies and, ideally, back-up power sources, among other things. City of Refuge, in South Baltimore’s Brooklyn neighborhood, will be the newest of seven others located across the city. “We are excited to partner with the City to meet this critical role serving our communities. For us it is one more way to bring hope to life,” said Billy Humphrey, Executive Director. The Office of Sustainability is working with the Healthy Neighborhoods Program (an initiative of the Department of Public Works Office of Sustainable Energy) to apply for state funding to make weatherization and energy efficiency improvements to their building. The Hub Initiative is administered by the Office of Sustainability and is a partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, the Baltimore City Health Department, and Department of Planning.

Resident Dedication Helps Create the “Best Small Park in the City”

Catherine Street Park Celebration

Celebrating Catherine Street Park (National Recreation & Parks Association)

While it’s not an official title, the “best small park in the city” is how some Carrollton Ridge residents are referring to the newly renovated Catherine Street Park (formerly ABC Park). The park received a substantial renovation in 2019 and Baltimore City Recreation and Parks (BCRP) expects the $1 million+ project to wrap up in 2020. The renovation likely wouldn’t have taken place without years of consistent activity, engagement, and partner building by Derwin Hannah, community resident and president of Friends of Catherine Street Park. Mr. Hannah worked closely with BCRP, residents, and businesses over many years. And when the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) announced that it would hold its 2019 national conference in Baltimore, their Parks Build Community program partnered with BCRP to participate in the makeover. The park includes a large playground, fitness equipment, interactive splash pad, new fieldhouse, and picnic tables. According to Mr. Hannah, the park “has gone from a park where you would not even want to walk through to a park where parents have to drag their kids out of.” The park is one block away from Frederick Elementary School, which was one of the first 21st Century School program school modernizations. Visit the NRPA web site for links to videos, radio interviews, and articles about the project and people behind it.

Community Catalyst Grants Support Neighborhood-led Revitalization

In 2019, Baltimore's Mayor and Housing Commissioner awarded Community Catalyst Grants to support neighborhood-led revitalization efforts across the city. These grants are one of the resources designed to support the new community development framework for a thriving city. Through both operating and capital grants and loans, the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) gave 60 awards totaling over $5 million. The competitive program will help strengthen the capacity of organizations and partnerships making lasting change. A table highlighting the 27 awards made to organizations working in INSPIRE areas is posted on the INSPIRE web site. Visit HCD’s web site to see all of the operating and capital awards.

New Public Artworks Enhance Neighborhoods around 21st Century Schools

From community gardens to park improvements, community-selected projects in many INSPIRE areas are well underway. While The Department of Planning works with City agencies and nonprofit organizations to make improvements such as upgrading a park or closing a street to vehicles, residents and students will also have opportunities to work with artists to ensure that the projects are truly places that fulfill their vision. Planning is working with the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) to seek artists to work with community members and students.

Through this partnership, three recently re-opened 21st Century schools will feature new public artwork installed in nearby gardens and greenspaces. The schools are Pimlico E/MS and Arlington ES in Park Heights, and Fort Worthington E/MS in Berea. A jury that included local community members and school faculty and students provided input on the selection of the artist they felt was the best match for their project. BOPA managed the Call for Artist, the design review process, and the contract for each artwork. These are the three artist teams who have been hard at work planning, building, and installing the new projects.

INSPIRE Mosaic_Fort Worthington

Break & Make Mosaics, a partnership between Herb Massie and Dominique Hellgeth. Herb and Dominique worked with students and teachers to design a mosaic that celebrates the Fort Worthington neighborhood and the new Fort Worthington Community Garden. They are building a mosaic covered outdoor learning stage that will be installed in early 2020.

INSPIRE Garden Gate_Arlington


Formstone Castle Collective, led by artist Michael Bowman. Michael recently installed a steel and colored plastic sculptural gateway arch – an impressive entrance to the new Arlington INSPIRE Community Garden. Michael worked closely with the Cordelia, Cuthbert, Hayward, Beaufort Association; community stakeholder Pastor Randall; and Arlington Community School Coordinator Jimmy Mitchell to incorporate the gateway arch into the Arlington Community Garden.

INSPIRE Street Mural_Pimlico


Whitney & Crystal, a community arts-based duo composed of Crystal Microti and Whitney Frazier. Crystal and Whitney worked with students and community members to paint a “horizontal mural” on the street and sidewalk surrounding a new micro park across from Pimlico E/MS. The mural adds color and helps slow traffic in front of the school. Crystal and Whitney constructed a steel and concrete sculpture based on students’ vision.

Two 21st Century Buildings Re-opened
in 2019

REACH! Auditorium

Arlington Elementary (Park Heights) and REACH! Partnership at the Lake Clifton Building (Coldstream Homestead Montebello) were the first two schools to re-open this school year. “Since moving into the Lake Clifton Park Building, our students have been taking great advantage of new technology, programming, resources, and partnerships, such as a new music department that includes a band and student and staff choirs,” said Rhonda McKinney, Community Engagement Coordinator and Early College Coordinator at REACH!. “There was a lot of excitement about our first Christmas musical, which we held in the beautiful auditorium.” 

2020 Census Logo

Get Ready to Be Counted: 5 Fast Actions

Census Day is right around the corner (April 1)! Here are 5 things you can do to help make sure everyone in Baltimore counts.

Get Involved

We are currently in the planning process for six INSPIRE areas: John Ruhrah, REACH! Partnership at Lake Clifton Park+ Harford Heights, Govans, Mary E. Rodman, Robert W. Coleman and Medfield Heights. Visit the Plans web page to learn more about, or get involved in, any of the 28 plans.

city of baltimore

Baltimore City Planning

417 E. Fayette Street, 8th Floor

Baltimore, Maryland 21202


department of planning

Chris Ryer, Director