Nicole Kirby, CarVer Communications Group
(Black PR Wire) BALTIMORE – When the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) opened its doors in 1968, its goal was to build equity through community-led design projects. While the idea of providing expertise in community collaborations was less common then, the intention set a long-standing precedent for successful partnerships and positive outcomes across the country. Some fifty years later, Neighborhood Design Center has amplified its pro bono work in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, Maryland, creating partnerships with neighborhood organizations, nonprofits, and schools to improve the quality of life in disenfranchised communities.
Circa 1968-1980, NDC led the industry in working with grassroots organizations to build and design health centers, addiction treatment facilities, and family planning clinics. The organization became widely recognized for its creative contributions in tot lot, playground, and park designs. The 1990s led the way toward community safety planning and prevention through environmental design. Once again, NDC answered the call spearheading renowned building campaign projects in some of Baltimore’s most underserved neighborhoods.
During Carol Gilbert’s tenure as NDC’s executive director from 1992-2000, new initiatives were created for community renewal and revitalization in Baltimore City. Memorable NDC campaigns included, Design for Safety, a community-based safety planning project based on Crime Prevention through Environmental Design; Playing Safe, “a safety evaluation and design of public playgrounds throughout Baltimore,” and You Plan It, “a community-based guide to neighborhood planning in Cherry Hill and Southwest Baltimore.” Currently, Gilbert serves as Assistant Secretary for Neighborhood Revitalization at the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
In 2000, fueled by the goal to bring architects, urban planners, social designers, artists, and organizers together to advocate for equity and safe spaces in disinvested communities, Neighborhood Design Center’s mission and vision accelerated to new levels.
The organization’s progress in addressing critical issues creatively and inclusively did not go unnoticed. In 2020, NDC gained national attention when it received the Golden Griffin Award for outstanding outreach projects in Baltimore City. This award honors the best Baltimore designs that define principles of excellence in the 21st century, as established by AIA National Framework for Design Excellence. Over time, the government and private and public sectors became more conscious of the importance of sustainable urban green spaces distributed across diverse urban populations. Reported studies of the importance of greening vacant lots and beautifying low-income communities showed a 13.3% reduction in crime overall. As this data became more widely known, restoring vacant land became a mainstream conversation worth having.
Over the past ten years, NDC has become a foremost expert in providing tools, expertise, and partnerships necessary to realize neighborhood visions in historically disinvested neighborhoods. January 2023 marked NDC’s 4,000th project. Executive Director Jennifer Goold said, “It is incredible to see NDC support our community partners across 4,000 projects! Our resilience and longevity are largely attributed to our flexibility and the belief that our community leaders know what they need. We've followed their lead through thousands of dreams and are eager to see where they take us in the thousands more to come.”
Neighborhood Design Center’s 4,000 project accomplishments could not be timelier. The organization has been invited to assist in the esteemed historic preservation of the Parren Mitchell House, built in This new endeavor is a complete restoration project led by the Upton Planning Committee (UPC) in the Historic Upton Neighborhood, just north of downtown Baltimore City. UPC oversees the landmark Parren Mitchell Mansion honoring Congressman Mitchell’s cultural and political leadership. Once completed, the historic site will serve as an events and retreat center for Baltimore’s Harlem Park community. NDC is excited to be selected by Wanda Best, the Executive Director of the Upton Planning Committee, to work on this historic project. For more than 40 years, UPC has been a leading community organization in Central Baltimore, focusing on uplifting the quality of life in their community.
Quinn Evans Architects will also participate in the Parren Mitchell House restoration project. Led by Anath Ranon and Nakita Reed, the Washington-based firm is recognized for designing solutions that instill community empowerment. These partners are eager to design a project that will make them proud and garner investment, so this culturally important historic site can be preserved. Passion, dedication, and team collaboration have always been key components to NDC’s success!
Working on this historical project is a testament to how and why NDC continues to thrive! Marking “4,000 Strong” through its commitment to support communities is a model that will remain. Working with an open mind and a readiness to ask hard questions, listen deeply, and change course when necessary is their approach to every collaboration.
“With nearly 200 projects a year, it’s hard to find someone in Baltimore or Prince George’s County who hasn’t benefited from NDCs work, either directly or indirectly,” shared Goold.
The 4,000 Strong milestone is an accomplishment that NDC shares with countless others. For over 50 years, numerous partnering groups have worked alongside the organization to implement positive change in disenfranchised communities, including those in historically redlined, predominantly Black neighborhoods, where most of NDC’s projects have been. NDC has also supported other communities, including members of the American Indian Center, Indian Cultural Society, Glenn Neighborhood Jewish Community, LGBTQ+ organizations, and those with disabilities. And now, in 2023, the Parren Mitchell House.
To learn more about Neighborhood Design Center, visit The Neighborhood Design Center (ndc-md.org).
Click this link to view NDC archive files dating from 1968 to 2022.
To request an interview with NDC Executive Director Jennifer Goold, contact Nicole Kirby at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-440-6542