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How would you fill this space? (Baltimore)


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Jan 30, 2008
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Toronto Star Urban Studies column looks at what people in Baltimore have suggested for abandoned lots. Click on the Flickr link for the photos.

How would you fill this space?

City invites suggestions in bid to stir up debate, maybe find a solution

Jun 18, 2009 04:30 AM
Paul Moloney

Driving around Baltimore, it's not hard to spot vacant lots where nothing much is happening.

In an effort to spur debate, the city's arts agency put a photo described as a typical abandoned lot online and asked people for their ideas of what could be done with it.

"There are 35 or 40 neighbourhoods in Baltimore that that site could be in ... there are large sections of abandoned buildings," said Gary Kachadourian, visual arts coordinator with Baltimore's office of promotion and the arts.

The suggestions ranged from the fantastic to functional. They included green, affordable housing, parks and gardens, as well as proposals for a waterfall and fire pit.

Toronto, fortunately, doesn't have that many abandoned sites from which the owner has walked away, said Robert Freedman, Toronto's director of urban design.

"Even if you have an empty lot, somebody's paying taxes on it," he said.

However, there are underutilized, city-owned sites in Toronto – including old laneways and small, irregular-shaped parcels – that might benefit from a call for ideas.

Councillor Adam Vaughan said he can think of a few in his own ward.

Underused parking lots in the downtown area could be used for a farmers' market or even a place for people to let their dogs run off-leash, he suggested.

"Reimagining" the use of these spaces need not mean something permanent, Vaughan said.

"It would be good to have proposals come forward and not necessarily measure them with a cash register, but ask what they could do for community engagement."

Meanwhile, it's unclear whether Baltimore will act on any of the ideas suggested.

"Basically, it's just to stimulate designs, to start talking about it," Kachadourian said. "That was our idea: `Let's just see what comes back.'"

Urban Studies is a regular feature about initiatives in cities around the world.

To see the suggestions Baltimore has received, visit: