Downtown towers, mixed-use developments and massive industrial buildings may dominate coverage of the commercial real estate industry. But CRE professionals also create gorgeous, public outdoor spaces and that activity has expanded since the pandemic began.

Photo courtesy of Frederick Ward Associates, Inc.

June is National Great Outdoors Month and a perfect time to recognize some of the glorious spaces that members of the NAIOP-MD community have helped create.

In Bel Air, the Office Street Pocket Park creates a gentle, green space and an inviting environment in the heart of downtown.

“Pocket parks play a vital role in improving the quality of life in downtown areas and their surrounding communities,” according to Frederick Ward Associates. “They provide green spaces, encourage social interactions, promote mental and physical well-being, provide environmental benefits, support local economies, and offer educational opportunities. The Office Street Pocket Park brings those benefits to the local Bel Air and surrounding community.”

Built by Frederick Ward, the Dresher Foundation, and the Town of Bel Air, the project created a gathering space and passive-use walkway for Main Street pedestrians. Tables and chairs set beneath a pergola create an inviting space to relax, eat lunch or play chess. Flowers and shrubs rimming the park provide a soft, green reprieve from the hard surfaces of a town center.

“The greenery in the Office Street Pocket Park not only has an impact on the wellbeing of individuals but also the environment,” according to Frederick Ward. “The use of multiple flowering plants, including saucer magnolia, wisteria, hellebores, and clematis help to create a habitat for insects and other wildlife, which help to promote biodiversity in the area.”

In the Merriweather District of Columbia, Color Burst Park is creating big impact on a half-acre site. Rimmed by offices, retail, residential and a growing roster of restaurants, the grassy area, stage and splash pad has become a prime gathering place and supports year-round programming.

Photo courtesy of the Howard Hughes Corporation.

“Color Burst provides a communal space for outdoor activities, including concerts, fitness classes and festivals, as well as everyday alfresco dining and a place to spend time with friends and family,” said Greg Fitchitt, President for the Columbia, MD region for the Howard Hughes Corporation. “Color Burst Park has something for everyone – from our littlest playing in the splash pad to those who want to have a relaxing day outdoors. Outside of event programming on any given night, you can find community members sitting and enjoying the park and the surrounding environment. As the Community Developer for Downtown Columbia, it has been really rewarding to see Color Burst Park being used by our community in such active and engaging ways.”

Elsewhere around Central Maryland, developers are adding green space to their projects.

Set along 2.5 miles of shoreline, the Baltimore Peninsula development will include more than 40 acres of parkland.

Developers of the Top Golf facility in Baltimore turned an environmental remediation requirement into an opportunity to create improved, outdoor recreation space. The development team, including ARCO Design Build, brought in clean fill, removed phragmites, planted native species and completely reconstructed and improved the Ridgeley Cove portion of the Gwynns Falls Trail.

“That area has now been remediated and turned into a lovely, green environment,” said Kimberley Clark, Executive Vice President of Baltimore Development Corporation. “It makes the trail all that much more important as a connection from Gwynns Falls down to the Middle Branch.”

Other projects are helping Marylanders – including residents of some of the region’s most distressed neighborhoods – enjoy nature, participate in sports and tap into “the power of the outdoors,” according to Lewis Contractors.

Lewis has worked with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation to advance the foundation’s mission “to strengthen America’s most underserved and distressed communities by supporting and advocating for children, building Youth Development Parks, partnering with law enforcement and youth service agencies, and addressing community needs through its national program initiatives.”

Numerous Foundation ballfields constructed by Lewis “transform many children’s lives by supplying spaces where kids and adults can get outside and be active while learning essential life skills,” according to Lewis.