Solo Gibbs Master Plan Moves Forward with Demolished School and New Playground

| June 7, 2023 | 0 Comments

As part of its Master Plan, improvements to Solo Gibbs Park in Sharp-Leadenhall continue to move forward. A new playground was recently installed and the former Sharp-Leadenhall Elementary School is currently being demolished.

The Solo Gibbs Master Plan was completed in 2020 by Baltimore City Recreation and Parks (BCRP) with architecture firm Mahan Rykiel Associates. This was done after several years of meetings with the community.

The first improvements took place in 2021 as one tennis court was resurfaced and one was removed to create additional green space.

The demolition of Sharp-Leadenhall Elementary School is a project by the Maryland Stadium Authority. It will be completed in September after grading and seeding for new grass is done.

The demolition of the school will expand the green space at Solo Gibbs Park for an expanded multi-purpose field. The field will transition from a baseball field to a field aligned for football and soccer. It will also double as an area for gatherings and festivals.

A portion of the space of the former Sharp-Leadenhall Elementary School will also be the location of a new recreation center that will front W. West St. This phase has not yet been funded, but the recreation center will have a gymnasium, fitness areas, and multipurpose rooms. BCRP estimates in 2022 stated the building could cost $7.2 million.

Katherine Brower, who is leading the Solo Gibbs Master Plan for BCRP, said District 46 Senator Bill Ferguson, who is also President of the Maryland Senate, is committed to getting the recreation center funded.

The existing recreation center at Solo Gibbs Park will stay until the new recreation center is open. Brower said the current recreation center will either be demolished or become a storage building in the future.

The new playground replaced an older playground at the same site. The playground will be expanded in the next phase of the Solo Gibbs Master Plan.

Design is currently underway for phases 1A, 1B, and 1C of the Master Plan. Brower said this approximately $5-million phase is funded and expects construction to begin in about a year. The funding is a mix of city capital, state grants, and Local Impact Grants from South Baltimore Gateway Partnership.

Those phases will include rebuilding the basketball courts and moving them a bit east to make room for a wider portion for the Sharp Street Promenade of the Gwynns Falls Trail; expanding the playground; and creating a new “Hamburg Street Gateway” to enter the park on Hamburg St. and the “Cross Street Plaza” at Cross St. and Leadenhall St.

The Washington Capitals also have a memorandum of understanding with BCRP and the community to build a street hockey and basketball court underneath I-395 where a basketball court used to be. Brower is unsure of the timeline of this project.

Solo Gibbs Park was built in the 1979. This portion of Sharp Leadenhall, which was previously comprised of rowhomes, was demolished to make way for the construction of I-395. The area was deemed “blighted” in order to buy and clear out the homes. Solo Gibbs Park was built on land that wasn’t needed for I-395.

Archeological digs have taken place at the site and artifacts from this could be showcased at the new recreation center to highlight this historically African-American community. Brower said they found ceramics and foundations from former homes.

Overhead shot courtesy of Google MapsĀ 

Renderings from Baltimore City Recreation and Parks (click to enlarge)


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