Ensor Street Organizing
VOLAR is organizing for community control of the Ensor Street Greenspace.
There is a strip of green space (601 Ensor Street), that borders Dollar Alley and is adjacent to the VOLAR Community Hub, that is currently owned by the city of Baltimore.
The neighbors reported that the land has been poorly maintained with overgrowth
bushes, inviting in rodents, mosquitoes and dumping (above).
Our Process for acquiring 601 Ensor Street
VOLAR first approached City Coucilperson, Robert Stokes, in mid-2020 to discuss acquiring this land for the benefit of the community. After meeting several times with Councilperson Stokes and different representatives from Planning, Housing Administration of Baltimore City, and Department of Housing and Community Development, VOLAR was told that the City of Baltimore had to check with the private developers of the Oldtown Mall area to find out if they had any use for the land. They wanted to make sure the land will serve the ‘best and highest use’ before determining if VOLAR could purchase the land for community benefit.
After waiting several months for a response VOLAR began organizing for greater input from neighbors in the surrounding area. In April 2021 VOLAR members knocked on more than 1200 doors, asking residents about their thoughts on this greenspace and collected 324 signatures in support of VOLAR purchasing this land. In late summer 2021 VOLAR submitted an application to acquire the greenspace through the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development’s Vacants to Value Program. We made an initial offer of $5,000 to purchase the land from the city. Our application is in the process of being reviewed. It has gone through the phase in which our proposal to acquire the land is made public and open to receive counter-bids. We are currently waiting to hear about the status of our application.
Unfortunately, this process to acquire this green space has been very slow and convoluted which raises several questions we plan to address: how do we collectively push the city to create more transparent, accessible, and timely processes for doing grassroots community development? How do we heal the colonizing perceptions of government officials and elite private developers that assume our communities cannot and should not control land in their own neighborhood? Join us in our struggle for justice!