The Baltimore office is steadily deepening our roots into our local communities! As the workplace is our house for where synergy happens, we must remember to spread that energy with our friends for a better, healthier environment. Our partnership with Baltimore’s chapter of the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC), a nonprofit organization facilitating the development of healthy, equitable neighborhoods, allows us to explore pro bono services and involvement beyond the office.

The NDC provided a monumental opportunity: to design storefront and streetscape guidelines for Pennsylvania Avenue. The site is in plain-view from our office. This corridor holds historical and cultural significance to everyone, ranging from public interest due to the 2015 protests to the most important constituents – the residents and property owners. We chose to focus our planning efforts on this group as they were the most impacted, and deserve the empowerment and entitlement that comes from our design initiatives. Up until the Great Recession, the community was beginning to thrive. The ULI Technical Assistant Panel titled their report of suggestions “Restoring the Glory” as a reminder of the prominent Pennsylvania Avenue that was in multiple points of history.

Our work started with a series of community meetings to profile and understand the local issues and desires. Through many iterations of simplifying graphic prompts, we asked questions of “where are your issues / how can architecture help solve your issues?”. We found common themes of historical “resurrection” with bringing back jazz and entertainment motifs, as well as promoting health and safety along the corridor. With all the galvanized community feedback, we conducted weekly lunchtime charrettes to refine our storefront and streetscape proposals.

Early in 2018, NDC held a design review of our progress, where we received positive acclaim and a great deal of constructive feedback to further our proposals. As our deliverables will be a series of guidelines, we are continuing to dive deeper into our suggestions and their implications from a micro to macro scale. Stakeholders will be reviewed toward the end of Q1 2018. We hope to leave our mark in Pennsylvania Avenue’s history, and more importantly, see improvements to the health of these neighborhoods.

Special thanks to Richard Chou and Richardson Jean-Baptiste’s continuing efforts in leading this collaborative!

Site aerial of  Baltimore and our office location.

One of a series of meetings with local residents and business owners

An example of visual boards to poll community participants

Storefront elevations