City and Regional Planning

Reservoir Hill: A Baltimore Eco District

Fall 2016 City Planning Studio

Reservoir Hill is a historic, residential neighborhood in centralwest Baltimore. It was initially developed as a gateway to Druid Hill Park, an important and large park in Baltimore. Over time, the neighborhood’s historic estates developed into smaller rowhomes and apartment complexes giving the neighborhood a unique fabric. Although Reservoir Hill lost neighborhood retail during the 1960 riots in Baltimore and a large portion of its population as well, there has been recent effort in reinvigorating its commerce and rehabbing the historic homes. The demolition of a large public housing project, development of two parcels
along Druid Hill Park and resident engagement in its housing, economy and environmental efforts make Reservoir Hill an ideal place to focus redevelopment energy.

Through a combination of off-site research and site visits, this studio understood the facets of the neighborhood and created a proposal for its development. Reservoir Hill’s strategic location with respect to regional amenities but weak connections to its neighbors possess a unique opportunity to rethink the role of site boundaries in planning. Reservoir Hill’s physical and social transition between neighborhoods on either side lend it a distinctive character of multiple strengths and weaknesses. The neighborhood’s history of resident engagement and community led efforts make it poised for collaboration between community groups and with external organizations. Lastly, Reservoir Hill’s location in the larger ecosystem of Baltimore and existing energy efforts make it a distinctive neighborhood to incorporate sustainability into the planning process.

The eco-district protocol is used as the basis of understanding environmental, economic and social sustainability. Goals are developed for the eight components of the eco-district protocol that include a range of interventions from community identity to water and mobility. Using the eco-district protocol, metrics are developed to measure the impact of the proposal on the neighborhood and its growth towards becoming a model neighborhood in Baltimore. Finally, a model of community driven implementation is developed to ensure community groups are invested in the development of Reservoir Hill and the residents benefit from its growth.

Proposals are developed under three main topics: neighborhood wide strategies, revitalizing Reservoir Hill’s barriers and strengthening its core. The neighborhood wide strategies include the preparation of design guidelines, promoting energy efficiency through solar and greening and fostering community activity in the alley network. The design guidelines are meant to connect residents with resources to rehab historic homes while incorporating energy efficiency and passive house standards. Solar strategies aim to reduce carbon emissions and
cut utility costs through a neighborhood solarize campaign and developing community solar on the elementary school and new developments. The proposal for alleys demarcates three alleys for beautification, programming and capturing storm-water run-off as a model to include environmental sustainability in the neighborhood fabric.

Revitalizing Reservoir Hill’s barriers includes two proposals for Madison Park North, a public housing project slated for demolition, and Druid Park Lake Drive, the road and parcels
that connect Reservoir Hill to Druid Hill Park. The proposal for Madison Park North aims to redevelop without displacement while transforming the barrier of North Avenue into a gathering point and integrate affordable and environmental sustainability to the redevelopment process. The proposal is visualized as a model for the redevelopment of urban renewal public housing projects that maintain affordable housing stock while reconnecting to the surrounding neighborhood fabric. The Druid Park Lake Drive project proposes to activate
the northern barrier of Reservoir Hill through strengthened connections to Druid Hill Park, enhanced pedestrian and bicyclist safety, expanded market-rate housing and arts and design focused economic development. The proposal calls for the reconfiguration of the road to fewer vehicular lanes and more pedestrian and bike routes with a new gateway to Druid Hill Park. The proposal also enhances opportunities for youth and adult education through a joint project with MICA and calls for a community owned restaurant and provision of office space for community groups. Both Madison Park North and Druid Park Lake Drive incorporate sustainable practices of managing demolition waste and water run-off.

Strengthening Reservoir Hill’s core includes strategies for the redevelopment of the town center into a food production and community oriented hub and the reconstruction of Madison-Whitelock Park to model sustainable land care practices and provide a space for resident engagement. The food productions site and town center aims to use creative placemaking that harnesses existing physical and organizational resources to form an integrated food system supporting Reservoir Hill’s economy, environment, capacity, health, equity, and identity. It provides an innovative model for reimagining the identity of a neighborhood center while also addressing the economic requirements of the neighborhood. The Madison-Whitelock Park takes the sustainable land care practices incorporated into all the projects and makes a showcase to educate visitors and connect them to valuable resources. It also creates a safe and welcoming recreation space in the center of the town that can bridge divisions between various parts of the neighborhood.

All of the neighborhood interventions are proposed to be developed with community support and input. There are numerous community groups that operate in Reservoir Hill that engage residents, carry out community fairs, promote redevelopment and perform duties that speak to the concerns of the residents of Reservoir Hill. The aim of community driven implementation is to ensure that the residents, through community groups and programs are involved in the development of Reservoir Hill through building coalitions between community groups, filling gaps in existing services and leveraging city efforts that align with community goals. The coalition builds on individual strengths for the collective good and spreads the required increased capacity required evenly across community groups operating in Reservoir Hill. The programs are used put the residents of Reservoir Hill in direct contact with site projects such that they are involved in their implementation and are able to reap their benefits.

With the addition of the proposed projects, Reservoir Hill will represent a model of housing, economic and environmental systems. Through community-driven implementation, community groups in Reservoir Hill will form a robust mechanism to integrate the projects into the fabric of the neighborhood while engaging the residents in the site projects. Reservoir Hill will not only model housing, economic and environmental systems but also group interaction and community engagement.


Scott Page, Lecturer