As a housing developer, Unity Properties understands that equitable housing is not merely about the inside built environment but is just as much about the neighborhood amenities and healthy environment surrounding the built units. This drove us to begin to engage our residents in 2017 around the vacant, dumping ground at 2 N. Fulton Avenue located next to 158 units of Bon Secours Family Apartments on West Baltimore Street. It was discovered through our engagement that community members had three major needs:
- Safe and aesthetically pleasing place to rest and relax
- A safe place for children to play and families gather
- A free water recreation space
Shakira Foster, a mother, workforce development leader, and community activist who has spent her life in this neighborhood and currently lives in the Bon Secours Family Apartments has championed a synergetic solution to all three needs. It was her insight that noticed opening fire hydrants in the summer heat is a quintessential urban American tradition, yet due to a confluents of public policy and events in West Baltimore, those nostalgic days are long gone for community residents. Yet summer heat waves still sweep, children still look for stimulation, and parents still look for positive socialization and restorative breaks from the heat. Families face geographic and financial barriers to accessing restorative natural green space, public pools, and the state’s natural resources. That is why, in partnership with residents like Shakira, Unity Properties is developing a space that is comprised of a playground, a free interactive fountain, and a place of natural respite intended for caregivers.
The current 8,200-square-foot (SF) vacant lot will be turned into a combined playground, interactive fountain, and a natural place of respite – Sacred Place. The “active area” of the park, which will contain the fountain and playground, will be located on the sunny western side of the site. The Sacred Place will be located to the east under existing shade trees. Each of these areas and features will be connected by a network of beautiful ground cover, always in bloom plantings, and seating for various group sizes. All this will provide a rich sensory experience for developing children and adults.
The park is located next to neighborhood assets where families live and study. The park is half a block to the north of 158 units of Bon Secours affordable family housing and a half a block to the south of Bon Secours Community Works’ Family Support Center, a building that serves close to 4,000 residents annually with programs in child development, career placement, and financial education.