During year one, I pushed to allocate money to redesign Memorial Park and the adjoining streetscape around the new Menkiti development, which will host the City’s newest bar and restaurant, Pennyroyal Station. My vision is to transform this underutilized and poorly designed park – located at the intersections of 34th, Perry, Rhode Island, and 33rd Avenues – into a welcoming outdoor park that encourages congregation and foot traffic.
Revitalizing this park can be a key towards improving the economy in our downtown. Its location – at the intersection of the business corridors of 34th Street and Rhode Island Avenue – makes it a prime space to encourage congregation. When folks currently walk through these business corridors, one is hard pressed to find a bench to sit on or a green space to relax in while enjoying your smoothie from the Waterhole. As a result, most folks visiting one of our charming stores like Nisey’s or Glut do so by way of the automobile, rarely meandering through our public spaces after going in and out of one store. By focusing on better design for our public spaces, we can help to revitalize our downtown to encourage more foot traffic and, in turn, more economic activity.
In year two, I worked to cultivate a relationship with the University of Maryland's Real Estate Development and Landscape Architecture Design programs to assist in the redesign of this project. With lots of community input through a community survey and four community conversations, the graduate students in Landscape Architecture produced a striking redesign of the space.
From there, I identified a grant - the Community Legacy Program - administered by the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) that would help fund this project. I then started the process of lobbying the Secretary of DHCD, Kenneth Holt, by inviting him to Mount Rainier twice and touring him around our downtown core. I shared with him my vision for revitalizing our downtown core, walking him around our downtown core to help him imagine what it could be with better design and business development. Then, at the Maryland Municipal League’s summer conference, I again met with Secretary Holt, reminding him of that vision and letting him know that the city submitted its Community Legacy grant application, and that we were excited to hear back from them. That work led to the city receiving direct support from DHCD staff throughout the grant review process and, eventually, the awarding of $200,000 to the city to implement the redesign.
It will take some time to get this redesign to full implementation, but it has been heart warming to see a vision turn into reality through hard work and perseverance.