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It's Not a Protest, It's a Picnic

Residents gather on the grassy lot at 33rd and St. Paul streets to draw attention to lot that has stayed vacant for years.

A sign affixed to a chain link fence surrounding a grass covered vacant lot at the intersection of 33rd and St. Paul streets declared it a "public park," and for one sunny fall afternoon it was used like one.

A small group of Baltimore residents used the lot on Sunday to get a suntan, play football and draw attention to the lot, which has sat vacant since plans to develop a high-rise mixed use development on the site collapsed.

Nolen Strals, 33, who came up with the idea for the picnic with several friends, stopped short of calling the gathering a protest.

“We’re just having a picnic,” Strals said.

The lot has been vacant since the development proposed by Struever Bros. Eccles and Rouse, which would have featured apartments, retail space and a parking garage, fell through. 

After Struever Bros., Eccles and Rouse abandoned the project, Johns Hopkins University bought the land but has not announced plans for the lot.

Strals, of Mount Vernon, said he’s had several conversations with friends during the last few years about the lot. He said all of those friends have had the idea of holding a picnic on the lot.

Strals, front man for the band Dougle Dagger who’ve recorded songs such as Luxury Condos for the Poor, pointed out the lot used to be the site of businesses and houses that were torn down in anticipation of the development.

“Now its just a hole,” Strals said.

Bonnie Veronda, 28, said she came out to join some friends and enjoy the space on a gorgeous fall day. She and several friends sat on blankets and talked about past plans for the lot. 

“I think we’ve all walked by this space,” said Veronda, a Charles Village resident.

Frank Hamilton came to the picnic with his wife Kim. He expressed concern that the property has been vacant for so long as the couple's 1-year-old daughter Olivia enjoyed the open space.

“It’s her first quasi-political action,” Hamilton joked.

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ralahinn1 October 10, 2011 at 04:44 PM
At this point( and with this economy) it would be nice if it were left as a park/ garden. Next spring, put in some trees/ flowers/ a fountain, some statues/ sculptures a few tables and some walkways. It would be nice to have some more open space in the city

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