Gibbons Commons Mixed-Use Redevelopment Plan (St. Agnes Hospital)
The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission recently recognized a partnership in Southwest Baltimore between St. Agnes Hospital and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation that highlights a redevelopment project while showcasing an important part of Baltimore’s history. The Gibbons Commons project serves as a template for other community-based housing projects across Maryland, particularly those that highlight historical features.
The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation was a logical partner, since this site was where future baseball legend Babe Ruth once lived and learned to play the game.
Founded in 1862, Saint Agnes Hospital is a 296-bed hospital completing a $200 million-plus expansion in Southwest Baltimore. This area has experienced little redevelopment over the past few decades and is a community in need of diverse housing options and activity centers that cater to the residents of the Southwest Baltimore community.
With an interest in reinvesting in the community, St. Agnes Hospital officials sought to address critical housing needs as well as the recreational aspirations of the residents. In doing this, they devised a way to rejuvenate a special place in Baltimore’s – and baseball’s — history.
The development concept for the 32-acre former site of Cardinal Gibbons School, located across Caton Avenue from the hospital, calls for a mixed-use development focusing on community housing and recreation. The site once served as the Saint Mary’s Industrial School for Boys from 1866 to 1950, a Catholic institutional school and orphanage. St. Agnes Hospital purchased the former Cardinal Gibbons/St. Mary’s site from the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 2012 and developed the vision for Gibbons Commons — 80 units of workforce housing, as well as “grand housing” units that will provide affordable housing to grandparents raising their grandchildren. Workforce housing is a key feature to St. Agnes, which has over 3,000 employees.
“We had seen a lot of examples in Detroit and different areas where inner cities had redeveloped with a community focus. This gave birth to the Cardinal Gibbons and what ultimately became “Gibbons Commons” vision,” said Bill Greskovich, vice president of operations and capital projects,St. Agnes Hospital Center. “This was centered around a couple of key factors. It was centered around residences for workforce, hopefully for our workforce, and was also centered around a new need we learned of from Catholic Charities of grandparents raising grandkids.”
The centerpiece of Gibbons Commons plays up a piece of Baltimore baseball lore. In 1902, eight-year-old George Herman Ruth, later known as “the Babe,” was enrolled at the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. He moved from a rowhouse at 216 Emory Street in Baltimore, near present-day Orioles Park at Camden Yards, and lived at the former St. Mary’s Industrial School until he was 17. One of the first five members elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 and one of the defining U.S. sports figures in the early 20th century, the Babe learned to play baseball on a field at St. Mary’s Industrial School. Wanting to see that part of Baltimore’s history reclaimed, the partnership, including the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, proposed the novel idea of recreating the baseball field as a youth development park and placing home plate in the exact location where the Babe used to bat. The baseball field will complement other recreational features and amenities to be developed at the Gibbons Commons property.
The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation uses baseball and softball fields to help teach perseverance, loyalty, nutrition, hard work and leadership to young people residing in disadvantaged communities. In 2012, the Foundation impacted more than 154,000 youth in 47 states around the country through Badges for Baseball and have completed 14 youth development parks, with plans to build 50 over five years.
“Baseball is deeply rooted in Baltimore’s history and it’s an honor to be part of one of the most historical sites in the sport,” saidCal Ripken, Jr., Baseball Hall of Famer and co-founder of the Foundation. “This field, consistent with the mission of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, will inspire so many young people, and it will help educate them about leadership, work ethic, responsibility, and healthy living. We are looking forward to making the field a great place for youngsters to have fun and to connect with these vital life lessons.”
“Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world.” – Babe Ruth
The Maryland Sustainable Growth Awards recognize and highlight the highest levels of smart growth and sustainability within the state. The awards honor and celebrate significant achievements by individuals, businesses, organizations, and local governments in their efforts to realize the “Twelve Visions” adopted by the Maryland General Assembly.