When we find a man who has ascended heights beyond ourselves; who has a broader range of vision than we and a sky with more stars in it in than we have in ours, we may know that he has worked harder, better, and more wisely than we. He was awake while we slept. He was busy while we were idle and was wisely improving his time and talents while we were wasting ours . . .
– Frederick Douglass
By Doni Glover, Publisher
(BALTIMORE – October 25, 2022) – Frederick Law Olmsted, who was born in 1822 in Hartford, Connecticut, is revered for his architectural designs. They include Central Park in New York City, the US Capitol (I bet he rolled over in his grave on J6), the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Oh, he designed Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. With such credits, there is little wonder why he is dubbed the Father of American landscape architecture.
The nation’s foremost park maker was known for bringing a sense of tranquility to the grind of urban life. He is quoted as saying, “The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.”
With this in mind – here’s a question: What happens when you bring together a former Republican mayoral candidate, a realtor who owns a home in Reservoir Hill, and an Ivy League-trained business strategist with a specialty in public administration?
I’ll tell you! These three spry and audacious Baltimoreans took the stage on a Thursday afternoon two weeks ago. The backdrop was the Mansion House in Druid Hill Park. And while the history of the mansion includes slavery, on this day, the edifice was re-purposed to facilitate a discussion rooted in diversity, equity, and inclusion that involves the collective future of Baltimore.
This specific future involves Druid Hill Park, the nation’s third-largest public park. And while Olmsted would be 200 years old if he were still alive, I think that calming effect he had in mind back then might be further realized.
And Lawd knows, we need it.
A 62.3% African American city, Baltimore’s power base is mostly white. Yet, the world is finally seeing what true equity looks like in real-time. Baltimore is not just Black and white. Baltimore is also Irish and Jewish. It is Latino. And Asian. And African. And Caribbean. It’s Muslim, too. And it’s spiritualists and those who follow their own individual faiths.
All of that is good.
What’s new is that for once – despite all of these differences and the deeply blood-stained past, Baltimore has finally turned a page with this Druid Hill Park Partnership. The Thursday, October 13th announcement ceremony bred promise of something unprecedented – a table where everyone has a voice, a place at the table – with their name on it.
Catalina Byrd totally shook up the world as she introduced key speakers at the announcement, including her “brother” (that is his word for their relationship) – Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott. Byrd, no stranger to the political realm, wore a different hat this time. The world came to understand that beyond a mayoral candidate, she also curated this beautiful tapestry of local and regional power brokers of various backgrounds, including business and political leaders from all levels of government.
Byrd, by the way, is a founding board member of the Druid Hill Park Partnership. Prior to this post, she served as a co-chair for the Women’s Commission of Baltimore City, and chair of the commission’s domestic violence committee. Further, she was a regular on “Square Off with Richard Sher,” Roland Martin’s “NewsOne Now” on TV One, Radio One WOLB, WEAA, and WURD. Byrd first ran for mayor of Baltimore in 2011 but was unable to collect enough signatures to appear on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate. She ran again in 2020.
While many know her from television and radio, that is just one aspect of her. Her Republicanism, that is, her focus on business expansion is also noteworthy. Unbeknownst to the masses, she is a tenaciously self-starting serial entrepreneur who has worked quietly for years advising politicians and business owners. This is, however, the first time the public gets to see her business acumen.
And Druid Hill Park, the 745-acre urban park in northwest Baltimore, is where attendees got to see another side of Byrd. Byrd’s focus is on designing an umbrella organization to facilitate development over the next two hundred years.
Byrd was asked about equity, especially given Baltimore’s horrid past featuring the nation’s first attempts to legally segregate Blacks and whites whereby a certain tone was institutionalized such that Blacks could not move into white communities, but also whites could not move into Black communities. Theorists have called it Baltimore’s “white L and Black butterfly”.
The “L” goes from Johns Hopkins University south to the Inner Harbor and eastward to Canton. The “Black butterfly” is East and West Baltimore. In short, most of the investments over the past half century have gone into the “L”. The “Black butterfly” has been nearly starved to death.
Catalina Byrd replied in an exclusive interview, “The vision is to make sure that those people on the SW part of the park are not steamrolled.” She continued, “A monumental amount of funding is about to happen in the area and we don’t want them to be left out or blindsided. I look forward to people working with us to make sure we achieve that goal.”
Kelly Dale Terrill, a realtor with Monument Sotheby’s, is the Chairman.
His official statement: “This past Thursday was the launch of Druid Hill Park Partnership. I’m usually one for many words but this time is different. Federal, state (Antonio Hayes), local officials (Mayor Brandon M. Scott), neighbors, friends, long time colleagues were all present to support. I am deeply humbled and grateful. We did it with integrity and grace. Team DHPP Catalina Byrd Zanes Cypress Photos by Paul Newson Photography #DHPP #OurFuture”
Terrell owns a home in Reservoir Hill. Clearly, he has a deep passion for the future of Baltimore, including Druid Hill Park. Otherwise, there would be no Catalina Byrd at the table. And you can take that to the bank. Byrd is a highly conscientious mover and shaker who quietly works to make this a better place to live, work, and play. She only rolls with the pure in heart.
“DHPP is to be a connector between the investors, the developers, the community members, and the various municipal partners regarding what’s happening in and around the park,” said Byrd.
This is actually in sync with a remark she made in the Baltimore Fishbowl back in 2020 regarding helping people during the pandemic. She said that she would focus on ensuring support for the “self-employed”. She also said she would work to find ways to provide “full-time artist support” and ways to provide monies for “small-biz owners – to include those who operate from home as well as mid-size businesses. They will be connected to resources offered by state and federal agencies with the city attempting to bridge the gap where possible via Baltimore Development Corporation.”
As for the A-list event, Byrd said, “I’m really appreciative of the Mayor and the other elected officials who were present and for those who sent representatives. That meant a lot to me and the guys.”
Here’s another question: New York has the Statue of Liberty and gets 3.5 million visitors per year. Philadelphia has LOVE Park. DC has the White House. Chicago has Cloud Gate aka ‘The Bean’ at Millennium Park. Wait! What?
According to Chicago.gov, “Cloud Gate is British artist Anish Kapoor’s first public outdoor work installed in the United States. The 110-ton elliptical sculpture is forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect Chicago’s famous skyline and the clouds above.”
It cost $23 million and is one of the most visited places in Chicago. It gets 5 million visitors per year and opened in 2006, two years after the work started.
Do you see where this is going?
Last question: What is Baltimore’s landmark? Oh, and the Harbor doesn’t count. Land-mark, remember? By definition, a landmark is “an object or feature of a landscape or town that is easily seen and recognized from a distance, especially one that enables someone to establish their location.”
Cypress, Vice-Chairman of DHPP, would offer that Baltimore has none. Better yet, the vision includes building one right there in Druid Hill Park.
Now, community groups all on the same page is one thing. But having community groups on the same page and generating business, too? That’s a win-win-win. The community wins. The park wins. Baltimore wins.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m stuck in an old-school world. I reminisce all the time about the way things used to be at Memorial Stadium. This is a new day, though. Kids today have no recollection of a City Fair whatsoever. On the other hand, the Chicago ‘Bean’ has enhanced Chicago’s marketability in a modern way. Why can’t Baltimore? Couldn’t Baltimore use a national and international draw – one that won’t go away after it’s been presented?
Well, this DHPP envisions such a Druid Hill Park, one that is welcoming to all and one that is destined to help make our city better by increasing our attractiveness. What captures my imagination most are the jobs that will be created and the businesses that will provide these jobs.
Cypress, a person with great vision and ability, foresees a brand new day and a brand new opportunity for Baltimore to shed its old skin for a more even-handed future. The Coppin, Dartmouth, and Oxford alum forecasts a Druid Hill Park that is well on its way to a brand new future. And quite frankly, it is refreshing. It is exhilarating to know that some dynamic people with stupendous capabilities are fast at work on creating a better, more robust, and more attractive Baltimore. And I love it!
Let Cypress tell it, we’re getting our very own Disney World!
This city deserves it. The people who have lived through the dark days really deserve it. And newcomers want to see our best, too! So, let’s get it done.
Cypress told BMORENews.com in an exclusive interview that the DHPP doesn’t just benefit Baltimore City. It also benefits the State of Maryland. Further, he insists that if the work of the Druid Hill Park Partnership goes as planned, the park would become a top destination in the state.
For instance, at present, the Inner Harbor is listed as 10th in the state. It is the only place in Baltimore listed in the state’s Top 25.
Let me add one more fact.
In 2018, Maryland Department of Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz announced at the annual Maryland Tourism and Travel Summit at the Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Allegany County that visitors to Maryland spent more than $18 billion in calendar year 2018, up 2.1 percent from the previous year and 47 percent from 2009.
Catalina Byrd, although she didn’t become mayor, has done what many elected officials have not. To her credit, she has helped, for one, bring together the contiguous communities surrounding the park under a single umbrella, and secondly, she has helped create opportunities for the businesses in Baltimore to become a part of a very promising tomorrow that helps raise the tide for everyone. Few politicians, especially in the Black community, actually do the things that Marion Barry, Maynard Jackson, Coleman Young, and Harold Washington did. With the team she has assembled, the DHPP will prove to be a prescient move for its supporters.