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Spruce Up grants from Johns Hopkins aid neighborhoods one park or mural at a time

The Baltimore Sun

July 16, 2018


The lot at Charles Street and North Avenue was empty except for the rubble left behind when the building there burned.

But after years as wasted space it’s become a public venue complete with grass, benches and a stage equipped for events. It’s hosted bands, vigils, fashion shows and Pride- and Artscape-related programming, and is booked every weekend until October.

Envisioned by the Station North Arts & Entertainment District, the Ynot Lot was among the first to land a Spruce Up grant in 2014 from a Johns Hopkins University program aimed at infusing $10 million over five years into the 10 neighborhoods surrounding the Homewood campus, some of which had been neglected for years and struggled with crime and blight.

Only about $900,000 has gone to the Spruce Up grants, with most of the other money being spent under the Homewood Community Partnership Initiative going to public education, housing programs and commercial development. But officials say the awards have funded about 50 gardens, parks, signs, murals, walking paths and other projects that in many cases have outperformed their expectations.

“People are willing to come through there now because everything doesn’t seem abandoned,” said Amelia Rambissoon, executive director of Station North Arts & Entertainment District, about the area around the Ynot Lot. “People see things going on and they feel safe. … Things are slowly coming together there.”

Station North got a $13,750 Spruce Up grant and raised a total of $61,813 to clean and paint and buy equipment, including a shipping container for storage that serves as the stage backdrop, according to Hopkins’ records. Rambissoon said the group later tapped other Hopkins funding for more equipment in addition to other money from local groups. The university’s involvement shows other potential benefactors that “this is legit,” she said.