As design professionals, we believe that the environment matters, places matter, people matter, and stories matter. Stories have the power to change the world, starting with the internal monologue within ourselves. Stories deepen the human experience and offer understanding of places that are, and are not, our own. As influencers of the future and students of the past, we must acknowledge that not all people have equal access to design resources. We must also acknowledge that design has historically been used to disempower and displace communities, especially communities of color. We must use this knowledge in regard to the power of design to create spaces that mindfully speak to everything that we are and all that we want to become.
Our DCMDVA chapter assembled a volunteer team of designers to support and strengthen our local communities through design.
The project began with a simple phone call to the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) - a Baltimore City and Prince George’s County based Social Impact Design Non-profit that partners with community leaders to envision better parks, public spaces, streetscapes, and more - from Chapter Public Relations Director, Kelley Oklesson, who previously worked at the NDC for 7 years and knew that this non-profit has their finger on the pulse of their local communities. NDC offers pro bono conceptual design assistance to community-initiated projects related to the built environment by assembling teams of volunteer design professionals through their Community Design Works program. NDC matched our group with the Bolton Hill Community Association in Baltimore who were hoping to renovate the Contee-Parago Triangle Park in time for its 50th anniversary in May, 2021.
The Contee-Parago Triangle Park is an entry point to the Bolton Hill neighborhood, a designated historic district, located at the corner of Dolphin and Bolton streets. The site had been cleared during urban renewal in the 1960s. A group of Bolton Hill neighbors organized to build a park on the site in the wake of tense years immediately following the 1968 riots and decided to name it after Edward William Parago, Sr. (1898-1983), and William Gailes Contee (1891-1987).
Parago and Contee were two of the earliest Black homeowners in Bolton Hill, having purchased their homes on Dolphin Lane in the early 20th century. The community believes Contee-Parago Triangle Park is the first Baltimore park to be named after Black residents and after living people.
A plaque in the park reads:
"Dedicated to the spirit of neighborliness exemplified by William Gailes Contee and Edward Wilson Parago, May 1971" (Baltimore Sun Article)
For many years Mr. Contee turned on the fountain for neighborhood children to play in during the summer. Today the park serves as a gathering place and social space, or a meditative retreat for local residents, as well as a place for nearby office workers to enjoy a quiet lunch.
The park was designed with intersecting paved elliptical and circular areas framed by curved brick border walls. It contains a circulating fountain, several benches, a large central planting bed, and five magnificent mature Willow Oaks that provide Spring and Fall color and abundant shade.
The goals of the redesign as defined by the community are to preserve tree health, increase visibility, emphasize historic features, and have a positive environmental impact by reducing stormwater runoff and creating habitat for urban wildlife.
The design process has two major phases.
Phase 1: Conceptual Site Design.
This phase was managed and supported by the Neighborhood Design Center. Click here to hear about their services.
The volunteer Design Team then focused on developing creative schematic design concepts/ideas and a preliminary planting plan.
Design presentation boards were finalized and presented to the community for feedback on August 29, 2020. A finalized site plan including concept updates to infrastructure as well as plantings was shared with the community on October 14th, 2020.
Phase 2: Design Refinement and Implementation.
The Design Team continues to work with the community to make refinements to the concept plan discussed during phase 1.
Pool and Fountain specialists are collaborating on developing a site specific design to update the existing fountain. Solicitation of financial support and donations of materials, expertise, and time continues. Installation of hardscape, ironwork, signage, fountain, lighting, and benches is to be completed by March of 2021.
Planting to begin in April 2021. On May 17, 2021, there will be a 50th anniversary rededication and celebration of the Contee-Parago Triangle Park.
APLD Chapter Public Relations Director: Kelley Oklesson Linda Carney Katryna Carter firstname.lastname@example.org Jean Lee Cole email@example.com Nan Rohrer firstname.lastname@example.org Elliot Weidow email@example.com Midtown Benefits District
APLD Chapter Public Relations Director: Kelley Oklesson
Katryna Carter firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean Lee Cole email@example.com
Nan Rohrer firstname.lastname@example.org
Elliot Weidow email@example.com
Midtown Benefits District
The new park is dedicated to William Gailes Contee and Edward Wilson Parago, Sr., two of the earliest Black homeowners in Bolton Hill, having purchased their homes on Dolphin Lane in the early 20th century.
Both an in-person and virtual presentation were held for community feedback on the Design Team’s proposed concept plan. (link to design boards)The design team received comments from the neighborhood about the design. Lots of neighbors were able to join us at the site to look over the plans. Those who couldn’t be there in person were able to comment online.
Baltimore Environmental Equity Partnership (BEEP) received a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant for Pavement Removal
Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) and the Bolton Hill Community Association oversee design and phase 1 of a park revitalization plan, which includes BWB hand-depaving a concrete pad surrounding several mature trees. Work to occur between January 1, 2021 – May 31, 2021
Preservation Maryland grant for Interpretive Signage
APLD DCMDVA assisted in pulling materials together for a $5000 Baltimore City Historic Preservation grant from Preservation Maryland to support interpretive signage at the park.
APLD DCMDVA finalized the detailed planting plan for Contee Parago Triangle Park. The plan incorporated native plants as well as tried and true plants for tough environments such as dry shade. The plan was shared on padlet as well the Native Plants facebook page which received positive reviews from both communities.
Baltimore National Heritage Area Small Capital Grant Application
The Bolton Hill Community Association applied for a BNHA grant for $15k (with a 1:1 match) to support the replacement of the fountain and other infrastructural improvements.
Volunteers came out to the park to implement the Western portion of the planting plan. Midtown Community Benefits District supplied the tools, mulch, and ~100 tulip bulbs for the planting event. Midtown CBD also connected the Bolton Hill Neighborhood with a wholesale plant supplier for the gorgeous, high-quality plant materials. 20 Shrubs, 20 Perennials, Hundreds of bulbs. [PHOTOS]
Fountain repair was determined to not be a feasible option moving forward so the design team proposed converting the existing fountain area into a conservation garden that included a collection of “conversation boulders”. The boulders would be large enough to sit on and encourage neighborhood congregation.
Non-profit organization Blue Water Baltimore assisted in removing sections of existing concrete from the park to give the mature Quercus phellos – Willow Oak trees additional root space. The pavement removal also promotes stormwater infiltration. The brick pavement and the existing fountain were also removed to make way for the new conservation garden.
Local contractor Serra Stone was hired to complete the masonry and drainage components of the project. This included:
- Bring (3) existing brick wall sections surrounding largest paved circle down to one course under elevation of existing concrete plaza.
- Finish top of remaining wall with one new coarse of brick to match existing masonry. Wall must be flush with existing concrete plaza. *Use brick from demolition to finish top of wall if possible
- Point existing masonry where feasible
- Install (4) new brick piers (flanking each set of stairs, anchoring banisters) to match existing masonry as per plan. If budget allows, additional piers may be requested by client.
- Locate (5) existing drain pipes and prepare for installation of new drainage system.
- Install new drainage system as per Cityscape plan.
- Delivery and place (5-6) large boulders with in the inner circle garden. Boulders will be used for climbing and seating by community.
- Install (1) commemoration plaque on a select boulder.