With support from the US Environmental Protection Agency, Groundwork USA, and local partners, the Baltimore Office of Sustainability is working to identify city-owned vacant lots that may have chemical contamination (aka brownfields) in east and west Baltimore to assess, with the goal of cleaning them up and turning them into new green spaces.

We need YOU! We are holding two contests, one for west Baltimore and one for east Baltimore, to:

  1. Find the sites that people are most interested in/concerned about, and
  2. Come up with great green-themed ideas for what to do with them once they’re assessed and cleaned up. Ideas could include gardens, parks, natural play spaces, urban farms, and more.

Five finalists on each side of town will be invited to present their ideas for a public vote. Finalists will receive a small stipend for their participation.

The West-side Brownfields Greening Contest is now underway! Anyone who lives or works in west Baltimore is invited to participate. You can download:

Applications are due by November 6, 2017. If you plan to apply, please send the location of the site you are interested in to Denzel asap at

Information on the East-Side Brownfields Greening Contest will be released soon, so check back for updates! You can also contact Denzel to be added to our mailing list.

We are looking for people and groups interested in suggesting sites, presenting their ideas, and voting on the ideas. Please contact Denzel Mitchell at or 410-396-1227 for more information.



What is a brownfield?

A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. It is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land, and both improves and protects the environment. (Source:

Does Baltimore have many brownfields?

Baltimore has over 30,000 vacant properties, many of which may be brownfields. Contamination of our vacant properties comes from sources like historical industry, lead paint, underground storage tanks for heating oil, and more.

What are we doing about brownfields now?

The Baltimore City Department of Planning currently has a Brownfields Community-Wide Assessment grant from the EPA. We expect to assess between five and seven sites, with the goal of then cleaning them up and redeveloping them as new green spaces. To get involved or learn more, contact Denzel Mitchell at or call 410-396-1227.

Not everyone can afford the lengthy and expensive process of professional environmental assessment. We have created a Soil Safety Policy to help guide city residents in doing their own research on potential soils issues at vacant lots in their neighborhoods.

The Baltimore City Department of Recreation & Parks is also working on a separate brownfields assessment grant.

What have we done in the past about brownfields?

The City of Baltimore received a Revolving Loan Fund grant from the EPA in 1997, resulting in 20 sites targeted for assessment and cleanup activities, and several major redevelopment projects completed, including the American Can Company building — now a thriving commercial and office center in the popular Canton neighborhood — and the Montgomery Ward building — now a model green building and a center of employment for thousands of workers, including the offices of the Maryland Department of the Environment.

In 2006, the City of Baltimore received and successfully executed an EPA Cleanup grant for a 12.5 acre site in south Baltimore controlled by the National Aquarium. The site was successfully cleaned up, including installation of 18″ to 24″ of certified clean soil and grasses. In addition, all illegally dumped debris, trash and invasive grasses were removed from the site, repairs were made to the damaged shoreline, and a vegetated swale was installed to manage stormwater.

The Baltimore Development Corporation has received multiple EPA grants for brownfields, supporting the cleanup of more than 40 brownfields sites.

Our partners at Civic Works have received multiple Brownfields Workforce Development funds from the EPA, and has used them to train Baltimore residents in brownfields cleanup through their Baltimore Center for Green Careers.