Work Begins on New Master Plan for Solo Gibbs Park in Sharp-Leadenhall

| October 23, 2017 | 0 Comments

Last Monday, Baltimore City Recreation and Parks and landscaping architecture firm Mahan Rykiel Associates held a workshop with members of Sharp-Leadenhall and the surrounding communities as part of the public process for creating a new master plan for Solo Gibbs Park. Development of the master plan will be an eight- to ten-month process with a final plan presented in the spring of next year.

Solo Gibbs Park is an approximately 2.5 acre park. It sits adjacent to M&T Bank Stadium and the I-395 bridges to the west, Sharp-Leadenhall and the Stadium Square development to the east, and Otterbein to the north. It currently features a playground, two tennis courts, two basketball courts, a baseball field, a small recreation center, a splash pad, paths, and green spaces.

Caves Valley Partners (CVP) is the developer of Stadium Square, the $275-million redevelopment project on three consecutive blocks of South Baltimore and Sharp-Leadenhall located between Cross St. on the north, Race St. on the east, Leadenhall St. on the west, and both sides of Ostend St. to the south. The northern most block of Stadium Square is directly across the street from Solo Gibbs Park. CVP met with Recreation and Parks a few years ago to get the ball rolling on a possible redevelopment of the park. CVP took the lead on trying to determine what the community wanted and putting together private funding sources for the renovation. CVP worked with RK&K Engineers and shared four concepts with the community.

“After a number of community meetings on the subject, no consensus could be reached on the part of the community,” said Arsh Mirmiran of CVP.

The Baltimore City Mayor’s office determined that a formal charrette process led by a landscape architect would be the best solution to reach the common goal of getting the park redeveloped.

Given the park’s proximity to the stadium, Mirmiran had reached out to the Ravens for funding. “The Ravens committed $500,000 to CVP’s efforts to revitalize the park, contingent upon a full football field being built there to promote the sport. They mentioned that the NFL had a matching program up to $250,000 for a qualifying park project,” said Mirmiran. “With the changes that have come to the process, as well as the possibility of something other than football being the largest use, I think the Ravens will need to be approached once again to verify their interest and commitment. When we last spoke to them a few weeks back, they were still interested in the project and would love to see it happen.”

A football field would require relocating the recreation center and the splash pad, and replacing the existing baseball field. The park is also adjacent to Sharp-Leadenhall Elementary, which is scheduled to close in 2020. The school includes a pool, and CVP had floated the idea of turning it into the new recreation center.

In addition to the Ravens, the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership (SBGP) could be another source of funding for the project. The SBGP manages half of South Baltimore’s share of casino Local Impact Grants generated by Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, Maryland Live, and MGM Grand National Harbor.

The public process is now beginning to determine the community’s vision for Solo Gibbs Park. The master plan will come up with short term and long term goals for the park along with maintenance strategies. It will act as a guide for the City’s  future capital improvements and for identifying potential funding partners. The master plan public process has a steering committee with a member from CVP, Christ Lutheran Church, Maryland Stadium Authority, Maryland Transit Administration, Leadenhall Baptist Church, Otterbein Improvement Association, Sharp Leadenhall Improvement Association, Solo Gibbs Recreation Center, SBGP, South Baltimore Partnership, The Baltimore Station, and other local groups.

In the public meeting, attendees shared some of their thoughts on Solo Gibbs Park. Several people mentioned utilizing the school within the park and reiterated the idea of making it into a recreation center. An attendee mentioned that the tennis courts needed renovation and that teaching kids how to play tennis would be ideal. One tennis court currently does not have a net.

A place to skateboard was also mentioned, as well as the need for better signage since a lot of people don’t realize the park is there. Signage was also suggested to highlight the history of the neighborhoods. Attendees also expressed a desire to see the space activated underneath I-395.

In the next few weeks, CVP will begin construction on a new $1-million community center at Leadenhall Baptist Church, which is located across the street from Solo Gibbs Park. CVP will be funding about half of the project, with the other half coming from a community grant from the State of Maryland.

Screenshot courtesy of Google Maps

The Sign at Solo Gibbs Park, Across the Street from the Proposed Development

The following are four concepts that were put together by RK&K Engineers (click to enlarge)

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Creator of SouthBmore.com and resident of SoBo. Graduate of Towson University and owner of Incept Multimedia, a full service video production company. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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