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Design for Distancing installations encourage social distancing in fun, artsy ways

Posted at 5:00 AM, Sep 24, 2020

BALTIMORE — Station North is designated as an arts district in Baltimore, known for its restaurants, theaters and art galleries.

So it’s no surprise that a new art installation along Charles Street is full of bright colors and beautiful native flowers. And this art piece comes with a purpose.

It’s designed to be used as outdoor dining space for the nearby restaurants. There’s also a bright blue promenade behind the seating area so people can walk around diners, instead of weaving their way through tables set up on the sidewalk.

Jayson Williams is the CEO of Mayson-Dixon Companies, a community development and redevelopment firm, and was part of the team to construct the outdoor dining and walking space in Station North.

“I grew up here, this is home,” he said. “So to be able to actually construct something for my own neighborhood, it feels great but also to see people utilize it and getting active.”

This is just one of more than a dozen projects popping up all over Baltimore under the Design for Distancing initiative. It’s an effort to help people maintain their distance while they are out eating, shopping or just walking around their neighborhood.

In May, the Mayor’s Office announced the start of the Design for Distancing project, along with the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) and Neighborhood Design Center (NDC).

“It’s incredible to see Baltimore move together behind this and to support our small businesses, to support our neighborhoods and see these things come to life. Its really special,” said Jennifer Goold, the executive director of the NDC.

They put out the call for designers to submit their ideas on creative ways to help people maintain social distancing. Out of 162 submissions, 10 ideas were chosen.

Other projects include the Love Lot in Hollins Market, a grassy field with picnic tables near Lexington Market and artsy barriers and space markers on sidewalks in the Belair-Edison neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore.

“If we didn’t do anything, then the city would be devastated small business-wise,” said Kim Clark, the executive vice president of BDC. “Doing it this way rather than one business at a time, going through a permit, trying to get a couple tables in a parking spot, this is helping four to nine businesses all at once.”

“It’s bringing attention to the area and getting people back into their communities and in their community commercial districts,” Clark said.

The concern now is how long these spaces can be used once the cooler weather is here to stay. Williams says just like they adapted to everything else in the year 2020, they will rise to the challenge to solve this problem too.

“How do we put heaters out, where do we get heaters, where can we order them before everyone else thinks about ordering them?” he said with a laugh.

“We’re not going to rest on our laurels. We’re going to start planning and making recommendations to the city and to some of the local bars and restaurants how we can keep the space and how we can keep it feeling safe.”

To see the winning designs and where the installations will be going, click here.