An urban green space uniting all races, faiths, ages and abilities
A mixed-use community where a sports stadium once stood. That’s what Reverend Jack Sharp envisioned for a 33-acre inner-city site that was once home to Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium and home base for the Orioles, Ravens and Colts for decades. He assembled an interfaith team of 40+ community leaders to compete against some of the country’s biggest developers for the abandoned land that is now Stadium Place. And he won!
Sharp, a true Firesoul, wanted to create a community that included affordable senior housing, a YMCA for youth services, commercial space and—most critical—a place for prayer and reflection. A Presbyterian pastor raised by his grandmother on Social Security and a pension for the blind, he dedicated his life to bettering the lives of the elderly and poor. He knew firsthand about the magical bonds between old and young. Not to mention the positive impact spirituality and nature have on wellbeing.
So when colleague and fellow Firesoul Susan MacFarlane suggested creating an open space around the idea of gratitude and its healing power, Jack embraced it. Gratitude is a core value for most people and religions. It unites people in a world where religion and ideologies often divide people. And studies confirm that when we feel grateful and express gratitude, we’re healthier.
They called it ThanksGiving Place.
Helping neighbors in need
That’s where TKF and our kindred mission and vision came in. TKF worked closely with Sharp and his corporate partners to transform his vision into reality. ThanksGiving Place incorporates several guiding principles and design elements of TKF’s Nature Sacred model for outdoor urban greenspaces.
ThanksGiving Place was designed to be the spiritual center of Stadium Place.
Accessible to all
The flat, open area is easily accessible to people of all ages and abilities who live in or visit its senior community. Trees and sidewalks line the one-acre park, providing a physical and visual delineation between the refuge within and real world beyond. Leafy branches and pergolas provide shade. Paths and benches allow visitors to relax and reflect however they choose to enjoy a respite from their lives outside.
The blue flagstone labyrinth serves as the spiritual heart of ThanksGiving Place.
A maze of grace & gratitude
Transporting visitors from the city outside to the sacred labyrinth within ThanksGiving Place is a majestic portal. A carillon built into the portal marks the labyrinth’s entrance. Its bells welcome all who visit ThanksGiving place, playing music from many faiths and cultures. Its harmonious tones—different sounds blending to compose a symphonious whole–create a universal calling for the community and surrounding city to come together in this shared sacred space.
A labyrinth is a circle and a path. It represents a journey. Any kind of journey. For every age, race, faith or ability. For kids visiting their grandparents on site, it’s a space to race a sibling to the center! For everyone else, it can be a quest for enlightenment. A quest to reduce stress. To rest and reflect. Again and always, to connect around a collective experience of expressing gratitude.
I leave feeling more peaceful, refreshed. Better than when I arrived. How thankful I am.
—Anonymous Journal Entry
A safe haven
Since the creation of the Sacred Place, the GEDCO community has grown from 253 units of housing for older adults to 372 residential apartments on site—plus 49 short and long term care beds. Currently, there is a mixed income building under construction that will include 70 units of rental housing for older adults and 30,000 square feet of offices for service providers, retail stores and restaurants that will be available January 2021—alongside another 22-bed hospice community. When complete, GEDCO will have housing for over 517 older adults on campus.
For more than 30 years through changing and challenging times, ThanksGiving Place has been a safe haven for Stadium Place residents and city visitors alike.
Like the concept of gratitude, its timeless design has endured.