Oral history with Friends of 26th Street Corridor President Jean Zachariasiewicz in 2023
In November 2018, the 200 E block of 26th Street collapsed. Although this was a frustration and inconvenience, community members also saw this as an opportunity to improve the neighborhood.
Neighbors knew from a March 2018 community-led visioning process that we wanted the block to be fun and safe for all ages. We knew that neighbors wanted more lights, more greenery, more art, and slower cars.
One proposed way to make that happen was to transform half of the street into a small park.
In February 2018 Baltimore City Department of Transportation (DoT) held a community meeting about the 26th Street Collapse. They promised to work with the community to ensure the space was repaired in a manner that suited the needs and desires of the neighborhood residents.
Throughout much of 2018, DoT attended periodic Charles Village Civic Association (CVCA) Land Use Committee Meetings to update residents about the project plan and progress.
Neighborhood residents and the CVCA presented community input requesting that a portion of 26th Street be closed to vehicle traffic. DoT and CVCA worked with contractors to determine a plan that would serve the needs and desires of the community.
To assess community input, neighbors created a survey in March 2019.
Paper surveys went out to every single house in the adjacent blocks (2500 and 2600 blocks of Guilford & Calvert, 300 E block of 26th Street) and were distributed in community association meetings (Harwood & CVCA)
The survey was also distributed electronically (Nextdoor & Facebook).
Of the 92 households who completed the survey, 88% (81 respondents) were in favor of the proposal. Neighbors partnered with the Charles Village Civic Association to collaborate with Baltimore City to carve out this space, which became known as the "26th Street Green."
On July 24, 2019 the CVCA coordinated a public 26th Street Green & Railway Corridor Maintenance Plan Charette. About 50 residents and community leaders, including representatives from Baltimore City, attended to discuss:
Long-term maintenance responsibilities & duties by season for the park
Responsibilities for special events at the park
Following the meeting, CVCA hired a consultant to draft a maintenance plan for the space.
Originally the plans were going to be presented and decided upon via in-person meeting, but due to COVID-19, community feedback was collected in April, 2020 by DOT via mail, phone, and online survey. DoT considered survey responses when selecting the final design concept for the space.
When reconstruction of the collapsed section completed, DoT dropped off temporary concrete barriers to stop vehicles from entering the east half of 26th Street. Full access was maintained for pedestrians, strollers, bikes and wheelchairs. The west side of 26th St was re-opened to vehicles and additional head-in parking was installed, which mirrors the parking across Calvert St. This new parking arrangement had no net-impact on parking, and there are still plenty of places to park. The south entrance to Hunter ally also reopened and can be accessed via the west.
All of 26th St remains DoT property. The east section is designated a pedestrian throughway or plaza. At a July design charette, ~50 community members came together to develop a maintenance plan for the space.
The maintenance plan required a formal organization to maintain the park. Thus was born Friends of 26th Street Corridor.
Construction on the park officially started in June of 2020 and in September of 2020, we celebrated the opening of the park with a Ribbon Cutting and Butterfly Block Party. The events were attended by elected officials including the Mayor, City Council President and City Council members as well as representatives of the Department of Transportation, Charles Village Community Benefits District, Charles Village Civic Association, and the contractors that constructed the park.
Photos: Copyright Edward Weiss