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Ziger/Snead Teams With Habitat for Humanity On City's First LEED Platinum Home

Baltimore, the City of Firsts, is now home to one of Habitat for Humanity's first award-winning sustainable housing showcases of 2011.

The renovated rowhome at 1810 Laurens Street in the Sandtown-Winchester section of West Baltimore is the first house in the entire city that meets the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum standard, and it is the first Habitat for Humanity house in Maryland to achieve LEED Silver standing. Jonas Risen of the Ziger/Snead architecture firm led a team that incorporated renewable energy, efficient water usage techniques, and high indoor air quality standards into the existing rowhome dimensions.

By working with Baltimore's most prevalent form of housing, the Laurens Street project serves as a model for how low-cost housing can incorporate modern, green features to alleviate "sick building syndrome" and help raise home values in economically depressed areas. "This project shows how much people care about sustainability in affordable housing," Risen says. In addition to being a showcase Habitat house with a family set to move in, "the Greenest House in Baltimore" also won the USGBC Maryland chapter's People's Choice award, meaning that the architecture community is impressed by the house and will take lessons from its design elements.

Writer: Sam Hopkins
Source: Jonas Risen, Ziger/Snead

Barclay/Old Goucher Neighborhood to get $85M Makeover

The first phase of a major redevelopment initiative in Baltimore's Barclay/Old Goucher neighborhood got underway last week. The innovative $85 million dollar redevelopment plan for the neighborhood was developed by community residents, neighborhood organizations, local developers, neighborhood social service providers, and city officials, in collaboration with urban/housing developer Telesis Corporation. The redevelopment plan will provide a range of housing opportunities including market rate and affordable housing, offered both for sale and for rent, in addition to new parks and community facilities and services including a Youth Safe Haven.

The first phase of the redevelopment will provide 72 units of affordable rental housing, 35 units of for-sale housing, and neighborhood jobs. Construction of the affordable rental housing, with a mix of new construction and rehabilitation, started in June 2010. In partnership with Healthy Neighborhoods, Telesis secured a $4.7M allocation of Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 funds from the federal government, which will be used to rehabilitate homeownership properties. Construction of the homeownership units is scheduled to begin in late 2010. 

This redevelopment initiative is part of a larger, multi-party effort to redevelop the Barclay/Old Goucher neighborhood and bring new opportunities and a better quality of life to the community. Deteriorated housing and high vacancies have left their mark on this architecturally sound neighborhood with committed community leadership.

In June 2007, Baltimore Housing and key community partners created the Barclay/Old Goucher Redevelopment Plan, strategically identifying redevelopment locations in the neighborhood. Telesis Corporation was awarded 268 parcels from Baltimore Housing, to be redeveloped in four phases that will complement the community investment initiatives, both underway, and recently completed. While Telesis focuses on the awarded parcels for redevelopment, many nearby organizations are contributing to the neighborhood revitalization by improving community gardens, rehabilitating privately owned homes, and establishing after-school programs for at-risk children. The result of this major, ongoing redevelopment effort will be a safe, stable, mixed-income community with a range of housing opportunities and community services.

Source: Housing Authority of Baltimore City
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Baltimore City Releases Green Building Standards as Less Expensive Option to LEED Standards

The Housing Authority of Baltimore City has released the city's Green Building standards. Developed in partnership with the Planning Department, the Baltimore City Green Building Standards are meant to be a quicker, less expensive alternative to the traditional LEED certification currently required under the Baltimore City Code, the agency says.

The standards will apply to newly-constructed or extensively-modified nonresidential or multi-family residential buildings that have or will have at least 10,000 square feet of gross floor area.
 
The new standards are innovative and designed to achieve certification for green buildings with guidelines that work with Baltimore's unique building and land use issues. As awareness of environmental and energy issues has increased, demand for green buildings has also grown. The BCGBS incorporates elements of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system and will serve as an "incentive" for green development without additional cost to developers. They are also designed to best achieve the goals of the Baltimore Sustainability Plan.

"The development of the Green Building Standards is another opportunity to show the City's commitment to being environmentally responsible," says Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

"Baltimore City's Green Building Standards give developers an incentive to go green," says Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano. "We understand the challenges facing developers and have created a plan that addresses their needs and our commitment. The new standards are sensible, effective, enforceable, and will be seamless and transparent."

Compliance with these standards will, among other things: protect and restore the City's water supply, reduce Baltimore's urban heat island effect, encourage alternative transportation, and promote and improve access to more green spaces throughout the City.

"Certification for green building projects in Baltimore will take less time, because they will be reviewed as part of the City's existing development review processes," says Tom Stosur, Director of the Baltimore City Planning Department. "Baltimore City is committed to being eco friendly and this is just another step towards that end."

Source: Housing Authority of Baltimore City
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Downtown Partnership launches online site to gather public's ideas for center city makeover

The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore (DPOB) has launched a new website in conjunction with the Project for Public Spaces, an internationally recognized non-profit focused on placemaking, as part of the planning process in its Downtown Open Space Master Plan, which it hopes will revitalize the open spaces in Downtown Baltimore.

"Hand in hand with our strategic plan for downtown, we're looking at the fact that downtown isn't just buildings and streets. It's open spaces. It's restaurants with outdoor dining. It's streetscapes. It's that whole combination that determines what a place feels like," says Nan Rohrer, vice president of Economic Development and Planning.

Baltimore-based landscape architecture, planning, and urban design firm, Mahan Rykiel Associates, Inc. has been tapped to lead the development of the Master Plan. The goal is to create a plan that will inspire residents, office workers and visitors to leave the close confines of the buildings and take to the streets.

The site, the first from Project for Public Spaces, will allow anyone with an opinion about the Master Plan the opportunity to contribute their two cents about the project.

"If you live here, work here or are just bopping through it's about focusing on what makes your experience complete. This is an easy way to get people involved. It gets them in the loop. It only takes about 5 or 10 minutes, and they don't have to sit through a meeting. Regardless of what their role is downtown, these are just as much their spaces and they are the users of those spaces. This is how we get them involved in telling us what they want," Rohrer adds.

Working in collaboration with the Baltimore Department of Planning and the Baltimore Development Corporation, Downtown Partnership has commissioned the Downtown Open Space Master Plan to preserve and enhance existing parks and green spaces, recommend new open space opportunities, and identify ways to unify these spaces into a more comprehensive and interconnected open space network.

Source: Nan Rohrer, Downtown Partnership of Baltimore
Writer: Walaika Haskins


Baltimore Community Foundation awards grants to 23 neighborhoods total of $85K in community projects

The Neighborhood Grants Program of the Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF) recently awarded $85,647 in grants to 23 community-led projects in neighborhoods across Baltimore City and County.

The BCF neighborhood grants fund a varietyy of projects like community gardens, neighborhood signs, and community festivals that have been proposed by a community organization. They reflect various interests and causes, with each project underlining the value of citizen power in action and how community organizations mobilize residents to complete a neighborhood project, build new leadership, or strengthen existing leadership within neighborhoods.

In Remington, for example, residents are working to provide constructive summer activities for neighborhood youth by organizing a first annual summer science camp. The 10-week program will provide young people with an exciting and enriching outlet during the summer months and into the fall, with lessons on steam engines, hot air balloons, solar ovens, and bio-fuels. The camp will help keep neighborhood youth off the streets and engaged in healthy activity while at the same time providing academic enrichment to combat the summer learning loss.

"The Neighborhood Grants Program is in many ways at the heart of what we do at BCF," says BCF President and CEO Tom Wilcox. "Our support of resident-led efforts to strengthen neighborhoods is a crucial investment in the life of our city, and one central to our vision of a Baltimore with a growing economy where all have the opportunity to thrive."

BCF's Neighborhood Grants Program is supported in part by the William Donald Schaefer Civic Fund at BCF, created in 2008 as a living legacy for Governor Schaefer, one that honors and perpetuates his commitment to Baltimore's neighborhoods.

BCF's 2010 Neighborhood Grants Program awards include:

Better Waverly Community Organization (Abell, Better Waverly) - $5,000
To attract more residents and merchants to Waverly's commercial corridor by designing, publishing and distributing a self-guided historic walking tour brochure focused on the area.

C.A.R.E. Community Association (Middle East) - $5,000
To discourage illegal dumping by reclaiming and beautifying a vacant lot in Baltimore's Middle East neighborhood.

Cherry Hill Community Coalition (Cherry Hill) - $5,000
To engage adults and middle school youth from Baltimore's Cherry Hill neighborhood in establishing the Eat Healthy, Live Healthy Community Garden, which will offer farm shares to community residents.

Duncan Street Miracle Gardens (Broadway East) - $3,892.95
To help this long-standing and successful community garden pursue a rodent abatement campaign.

Edmondson Heights Civic Association (Edmondson Heights) - $2,087.50
To increase neighborhood visibility and resident pride by installing a neighborhood sign in the center of the community.

Fells Prospect Community Association (Fells Prospect) - $4,900
To discourage and reduce littering, graffiti, and crime in the neighborhood by gating a problematic alley and transforming it into a community green space.

Greater Remington Improvement Association (Remington) - $1,384.68
For the first annual Remington Science Summer Camp, a 10-week Saturday workshop series for neighborhood youth that runs from late summer through the first weeks of the school year.

Hanlon Improvement Association (Hanlon-Longwood) - $3,000
To increase the number of active community association members by hosting a day-long forum that will explore neighborhood issues and community building solutions through resident focus groups.

Hezekiah Movement (Roundhouse) - $2,000
To support the Our Families in Healing Program's participation in the SoWeBo Recovery Expo, an event that provides Southwest Baltimore residents with information and resources related to addiction recovery services and drug prevention.

Lutherville Community Association (Lutherville) - $2,357
To improve community cohesion and neighborhood identification by installing a community sign, park benches, and greenery on land that sits at the neighborhood's gateway.

Madison East End Multipurpose Center (Madison East End) - $3,250
To promote healthy eating and exercise among neighborhood youth by conducting interactive workshops that incorporate technology and field trips to address issues of proper nutrition, mental health, and physical fitness..

Milton/Montford Improvement Association (Milton/Montford, Madison East End) - $3,160
To fund a summer peace camp for neighborhood youth, ages 6-13, that offers computer classes, arts and crafts, gardening, leadership development, and field trips.

Monument East Development (Dunbar/Broadway) - $1,300
To promote community pride and resident interaction by holding a Monument East Community Day celebration.

New Greenmount West (Greenmount West) - $4,942.50
To increase community engagement, awareness, and interaction by launching a neighborhood communications campaign that includes the use of community bulletin boards, newsletters, community dinners, new resident welcome packets, and a Greenmount West stories booklet.

Oliver Community Association (Oliver) - $3,500
To promote community involvement and social interaction through two "Evening of Jazz" events, featuring live jazz performances, poetry, art, and local vendors.

Overlea Community Association (Overlea) - $5,000
For the Lead On! Overlea project, a year-long leadership and community organizing training for neighborhood residents.

Richnor Springs Neighborhood Association (Richnor Springs) - $3,000
To improve neighborhood safety through Operation Safelight, a project to install energy efficient light bulbs and timing mechanisms on porch lights of neighborhood homes to ensure that the community's streets are illuminated from "dusk 'til dawn."

Seton Hill Association (Seton Hill) - $4,000
To raise awareness about the neighborhood by holding La Fete Francaise, a free community event with an emphasis on the neighborhood's historic French origins and featuring live music, French-themed food and drink, performers, art displays, and walking tours of neighborhood landmarks.

St. Frances Neighborhood Center (Reservoir Hill) - $4,772.61
To provide information and services to neighborhood residents by hosting the 5th annual Reservoir Hill Resource Fair, which will feature employment, health, and academic vendors in a block party atmosphere.

Stevenswood Improvement Association (Stevenswood) - $5,000
To promote community pride and awareness by installing lamp post street banners featuring the name of the neighborhood, as well as by beautifying the neighborhood gateways with new planters.

Union Square Association (Union Square) - $5,000
To beautify three target blocks in the neighborhood by conducting trash clean-ups and installing and maintaining planters and raised beds for flowers, plants, and trees.

West Edmondale Community Association (Gwynn Oak) - $3,100
To engage residents in a neighborhood-wide clean-up and beautification project by holding a "Motivation Day" contest that will reward blocks claiming the greatest number of participants.

Windsor Hills Neighbors (Windsor Hills) - $5,000
To raise the neighborhood's profile and increase resident pride by cleaning up and beautifying a neighborhood gateway with a community sign, plants, and flowers.

Source: BCF
Writer: Walaika Haskins


Gov. O'Malley awards $5M in HSR tax credits, seeks $50M for new sustainable tax credit program

Gov. Martin O'Malley hopes to create a new tax credit he believes will boost smart and sustainable growth in Maryland's historic areas and existing communities well-served by transit and infrastructure. The Sustainable Communities Tax Credit program, $50 million, three-year program, will help create construction and rehabilitation jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and spur economic development with each project.

The new program will replace and improve upon the 14-year-old Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit program, which is set to expire in June.

"The program represents the best of public investment and private enterprise as we continue to seek ways to fuel economic growth and create jobs," says Gov. O'Malley. "The success of the program in recent years cannot be understated. These projects will help revitalize historic communities, strengthen a green economy throughout our State, and create new construction and rehabilitation jobs in every corner of Maryland."

The existing Heritage Tax Credit has invested more than $347 million in Maryland revitalization projects since 1996. Those projects have produced more than $1.5 billion in total direct rehabilitation expenditures by owners and developers. Coupled with wages, both construction and new jobs, and State and local revenues generated, this equates to more than $8.50 in economic output for every $1 invested by State government.

A report last year by the non-profit Abell Foundation concluded that commercial projects over the life of the program have employed roughly 15,120 people, earning $673.1 million in 2009 dollars. The state's tax credit investment in labor-intensive building renovation has generated 1,850 more jobs than would have been created had the same funds been used for new construction, the foundation reported.

The governor also revealed the latest recipients of some $5 million in Maryland Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credits for four projects in Central Maryland. Receiving awards. They include:

  • Union Mill in Baltimore City: $2,920,000 tax credit for $20,000,000 project by Seawall Development Company to turn vacant manufacturing structure into residential and commercial space.
  • Proctor House in Bel Air: $100,000 tax credit for $500,000 project by Kelly Financial Group, LLC to turn vacant/storage space into commercial offices.
  • Two projects at the National Park Seminary development in Silver Spring: $800,000 tax credit for $4,000,000 project by the Alexander Company to turn vacant gymnasium into 12 residences. And $1,180,000 tax credit for $5,900,000 by the Alexander Company to turn vacant space and utility structures into 15 residential units.

"New legislation for 2010 seeks to strengthen the effectiveness of the tax credit program as an incentive for smart and sustainable growth," says Maryland Secretary of Planning Richard E. Hall, who chairs the Governor's Smart Growth Subcabinet. "By expanding program eligibility and coordinating it more closely with related state programs, the tax credit will benefit more communities across the state as a critical redevelopment and revitalization tool. One of Maryland's most effective Smart, Green & Growing tools should not be allowed to sunset this year."


Source: State of Maryland, Department of Planning
Writer: Walaika Haskins


City banks $6.37M from stimulus for energy efficiency

The city recieved a $6.37 million dollar energy stimulus package from the U.S. Department of Energy. Mayor Sheila Dixon announced that $1 million of the funding would be allocated to a Community Energy Grant Program. The program will enable community organizations and non-profits to perform cost-saving energy improvements in neighborhood buildings and facilities. Applications for the program will become available in early Spring 2010.

"With the new stimulus funds we have received, the City will be able to advance further towards becoming a cleaner, greener and sustainable city," said Mayor Dixon.

The stimulus funds will be used to fund 18 program activities ranging from community projects and renewable energy to new energy financing structures. The majority of the funds, over 30 percent, will be put to use in the community, to create new initiatives and to fill funding gaps or shortfalls in existing energy programs. For instance some of the grant will be used to supplement the Baltimore Neighborhood Energy Challenge (BNEC), a program that helps households reduce energy use.
 
A new Baltimore Commercial Energy Challenge will be implemented for greener and more energy efficient buildings. A youth energy conservation component will be added to the existing summer YouthWorks program. Plans also include installation of City building retrofits for utility cost savings.

The DGS Energy Division estimates that once all programs are fully implemented, 500 jobs will have been created or retained by this stimulus package.

A total of 18 projects will be funded under the $6.37 million award:
o Community Energy Conservation Grants,
o Baltimore Neighborhood Energy (BNEC) Challenge,
o Youth Energy Conservation and Efficiency Training,
o Home Energy Conservation,
o Residential Plan for Energy Efficiency,
o Baltimore Commercial Energy Challenge,
o Energy/Climate Action Plan,
o District Heating Expansion Feasibility Analysis,
o Sustainable Energy Utility,
o Conversion of Biomass to Biofuel,
o City's Trash Hauler Fleet Fuel Efficiency,
o City Building Retrofits,
o Energy Efficiency Model Office,
o Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) meter,
o Nitrogen Tire Filling,
o Diesel Particulate Filter(DPF) Regeneration,
o And studies of Geothermal Energy and Flextime.

Source: Baltimore City
Writer: Walaika Haskins

New Montgomery Co. project uses stimulus dollars to create jobs, housing

Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Secretary Raymond A. Skinner announced the beginning of the renovation of a 21-unit apartment building in Takoma Park, a project financed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Gilbert Highlands redevelopment is the first project in the state to receive a grant under DHCD's Multifamily Energy Efficiency and Housing Affordability (MEEHA) program, which aims to promote energy efficiency in affordable multifamily rental housing.

"Maryland is a national leader in its efficient and effective management of Recovery funds in these difficult economic times, expanding opportunity and creating jobs in our State," says Gov. Martin O'Malley. "We will continue to utilize those resources to provide affordable housing for Maryland's hardworking families and generate jobs in the construction and housing sectors."

The Gilbert Highlands building, located on the 8500 block of Flower Avenue, will provide desirable, energy efficient, affordable housing for low to moderate income families while generating more than two dozen construction jobs.

"The redevelopment of this important affordable housing resource has long been a priority of the Town of Takoma Park and we are pleased that our financing will help preserve and expand critically needed affordable housing in that community," says Secretary Skinner.

Increasing energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective ways that owners of affordable rental housing can ensure the sustainability of the development, and these investments act as an incentive to performing regular building maintenance.

MEEHA provides grants for energy audits and the purchase and installation of equipment and materials for energy efficiency and renewable energy measures in affordable multifamily rental housing. The program is an ongoing partnership between the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Maryland Energy Administration and is part of the governor's emPOWER Maryland initiative, which aims to reduce the state's energy consumption by 15 percent by 2015.

MEEHA funding comes in the form of a $9.5 million contribution from MEA, funded by both the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 State Energy Program, and the State's Strategic Energy Investment Fund.

The MEEHA program is Maryland's multifamily counterpart to the Weatherization Assistance Program, which currently funds energy retrofits for eligible low-income households. These two programs help Maryland families reduce energy costs and consumption at a time of increasing financial stress and rising energy costs.

MEEHA is being undertaken in conjunction with DHCD's Green Grant Rental Housing Preservation Program, which provides additional funding for energy audits of affordable multifamily rental housing developments in certain communities affected by the federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. It also provides funding for the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) training and accreditation.

News updates also are available by following DHCD on Twitter and Facebook.

Source: Montgomery County Development Corporation
Writer: Walaika Haskins


CSX trees up Westport

CSX employees, joined by representatives from TreeBaltimore, Parks & People Foundation and the Westport Community, spent Saturday morning planting large Redbud, Maple and Sycamore trees throughout Baltimore's Westport neighborhood.

The railroad-sponsored program focused on Annapolis, Maisel and Cedley streets in the 45-acre Westport neighborhood that is being redeveloped from an industrial area to a mixed-used community. An estimated 37 percent of the area`s families live below the poverty line, but area leaders hope the environmental restoration and community revitalization goals will make the neighborhood a national model for urban restoration.

The CSX event was part of the railroad`s "Trees for Tracks" program that promises to plant 21,000 trees, or one tree for each mile of CSX track, in partnership with local organizations over the next five years. Other partners include City Year, the national youth service initiative, and Alliance for Community Trees, a national organization dedicated to helping cities restore their forest canopy, a third of which has been destroyed in recent decades.

According to Tori Kaplan, Director of Corporate Citizenship for CSX, "Planting trees improves air quality, offsets carbon emissions, creates noise buffers, improves wildlife habitats and adds beauty to our communities. We appreciate the opportunity to bring Trees for Tracks to a Baltimore city neighborhood that has received national attention for reinventing itself in ways that improve the quality of life and benefit the environment."

During its twenty-five years of working in Baltimore City, Parks & People has found environmental restoration can be a critical early step in the revitalization of communities in need. "In communities with trees, people socialize more with their neighbors, have a stronger sense of community and pride in their neighborhood, and feel safer than people in communities without trees. We are excited to be part of this larger effort that CSX is undertaking, to bring trees back to our city," Says Guy Hager, senior director for the Parks & People Foundation.


Additional CSX "Trees for Tracks" planting days will take place over the next several months in Atlanta, Miami and other cities. For additional information or to sign up as a volunteer, please visit http://www.keeponliving.org/green/trees-for-tracks/.

Source: Tori Kaplan, CSX
Writer: Walaika Haskins
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