Committee discusses street cleaning, bikes and Belair Road

A new city-wide street sweeping program, bike-share program and progress in the initiative to develop commercial areas of Belair Road were discussed at the GBC’s Built Environment and Sustainability Committee meeting Wednesday morning at the GBC offices in downtown Baltimore.

City to get clean sweep

Baltimore street sweeping will expand to serve 90 percent of the city’s streets starting in April, according to Jeffrey Raymond, chief of the Division of Communications and Community Affairs for Baltimore City Department of Public Works. Currently, 30 percent of Baltimore’s streets are swept weekly – in the downtown neighborhood. Neighborhoods outside of the city center will be swept monthly on Wednesdays.

Street sweeping times will not be posted in neighborhoods; instead the DPW will be sending postcards to residents with times, working with neighborhood groups and posting schedules on City View and 311.

The street cleaning initiative is partially funded by the Storm Water Fee (“Rain Tax”), Raymond said.

GBC turns spokes

The GBC’s Business Coalition for Baltimore Bicycling Work Group is interacting with the city on all levels, according to Bike Group Chairman Jon Laria.

“The city has turned a corner,” Laria said, noting the increased interest in and funding for bike programs.

The GBC bike group is actively working with the city to bring a bike share program to Baltimore sometime this year.

“All the cool cities have a bike share program,” Laria said. “Baltimore needs to have one.”

The subcommittee is also working with the city on its planning for bike infrastructure improvements.

“It’s great to have the GBC behind this,” he said. “The business community engagement moves the needle and makes progress. … The value of public and private sectors coming together is incalculable.”

Solutions for vacant and underused buildings

Baltimore is one of five cities chosen for a collaborative Urban Land Institute and National Trust for Historic Preservation pilot program to identify barriers and create solutions for building reuse.

Los Angeles was the first city to be studied, and Baltimore and Philadelphia are the next centers ULI will work with to find ways to reinvigorate underutilized city buildings.

“It’s really exciting for Baltimore to be one of these five cities,” said Laria, who is co-chairman of the initiative’s Baltimore committee.

Baltimore will get grant funding and staff support to brainstorm barriers, and create an action plan with solutions to underuse of vacant and sparsely used properties.

“There’s nothing greener than preserving a building” said Built Environment and Sustainability Chairman Bryce Turner.

Bringing new life to Belair Road

Community members and marketing groups are working on ways to strengthen several areas with potential for retail development on the five-mile stretch of Belair Road from Belair-Edison to the beltway.

Kristen Mitchell of the Baltimore Development Corporation and Matt D’Amico of Design Collective gave a presentation on their organizations efforts to make different “nodes” on Belair Road thriving commercial centers.

Belair Road has a reputation as a commuter corridor scattered with vacant auto dealerships and a few barber shops and liquor stores. The BDC and Design Collective are among a group working to bring businesses to several two- to three-block centers on Belair Road that have been identified as potential commercial centers: Belair-Edison, Gardenville, Overlea, the Quarry and Fullerton.

Revitalization opportunities include a hotel, residential communities for the elderly, restaurants and retail stores, according to Mitchell.

Businesses are already moving into the “nodes,” such as the recently opened Birdland Sports Bar and Grill, and Planet Fitness, which is scheduled to open in April or May.

“Neighborhoods are the backbone of Baltimore,” Turner said. “Let’s keep (this effort) moving, so it’s not just a report that gets put on a shelf.”

The initiative has been moving quickly, D’Amico said.

“It’s pretty extraordinary,” he said. “You have to have faith, and you have to have champions, which it has.”

The Bicycling Work Group will meet at 8 a.m. Friday, Feb. 7. For more information and to RSVP, contact GBC Associate Maura Mahoney at mauram@gbc.org or 410-727-2820, ex. 17.

The Built Environment and Sustainability Committee will meet next at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 19.

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