Author: J. Orlando Fair

Historic Preservation Planning Notes

When attending the American Planning Association Maryland Chapter Conference on “Negotiating Change: Balancing Development, Climate Change, and Preservation in Maryland,” I attended Frederick County’s Historic Preservation Workshop led by Lisa Mroszcyzk Murphy and Christina Martinkosky. The title of the presentation was “Demolition Review: A Historic Preservation Tool for Communities.”

I’ve gone through my notes and created a short set of metrics I’d like to share:

Factors for Review

Factors for the assessing individual structures


  • Is the property a candidate for historic integrity? Is there notable merit or heritage use?
  • Has there been alteration to the structure? Has there been a loss of integrity? Has it been compromised? Does what remains effectively ‘tell the story’? Where’s the documentation?
  • Is the property less than 50 years old or is it older?
  • Does the architecture’s form speak to a vernacular? Is it original? Or prefabricated? Is it popular today or back then? Rare and unusual?
  • Is it worthy of today’s modern interest? Tomorrow’s?
  • Does the structure hold integrity for ethnic design?
  • Is it visually interesting today or was it when it was built?


  • Has a permit application been filed for designation, renovation, or demolition? Without historic designation, the owner of a demolition or renovation who has received a permit cannot be held to account for historic preservation. Questions are:
  • Is the structure in an overlay district or historic district?
  • Does the structure align with today’s land use patterns?
  • What is the current or most recent tenant activity?
  • Is there potential reuse for the property today with the filing? Is there active developer interest?
  • Are there existing liens? What’s the property’s value?
  • Has the property been donated? Does the owner object to a renovation/demolition?
  • If the owner is a non-profit who is championing renovation or demolition, what is their actual capacity to conduct the work?
  • Does the current owner and does the current tenant value the land more than the property’s structures?
  • Is there a case for demolition by neglect? Is neglect or blight recognized in an existing maintenance code?
  • Are there adjacent structures on the property? Are they more valuable or significant? Are they in need of moving? If so, create a relocation plan.
  • Is an addition desired to uphold current occupancy? Zoning? Is there a non-conforming use being proposed? Designation can influence politics and public perception.
  • What is the cost of designation? there is a consequence. However, cost should NOT be a factor for significance.

General Practices

  • Can the review process delay developers and their development?
  • County’s code follows Maryland Historic Trust, which follows the National Register’s Criteria
  • If the goal is to “protect neighborhood character,” is historic preservation the best tool to enable or disable the structure from being renovated or demolished? Or is it a permitting issue? What tools are otherwise available? Code enforcement and preservation may be better tools to address infractions. The departments should talk. A demolition moratorium may be needed.
  • A facade renovation is not demolition – Relating to ‘Facadism’ – Is a new proposal design just ugly and against the neighborhood criteria?
  • Partial demolitions do matter.
  • What is the preservation staff’s ability to offer and administrate guidance? Has an application actually been filed?

View the Presentation on “Demolition Review: A Historic Preservation Tool for Communities”

Learn more about the Conference:

2019 Conference Presentations – APA Maryland

APA Maryland held its 2019 Biennial Conference on October 6th through 8th at the Rocky Gap Casino * Resort in Cumberland, Maryland. Our conference theme was Negotiating Change: Balancing Development, Climate Change, and Preservation in Maryland. As a small, densely-populated state, Maryland is in a constant struggle to find and keep this balance in both its urban and rural areas.

Transect 7 featured as part of Edge: Harbor and City Displays at Baltimore Museum of Industry 10/24-11/12

Snippet from the Article in Baltimore Magazine

Starting today, you can see the various design and planning proposals to re-imagine the City of Baltimore’s relationship to water in the built environment. I’m proud of to be part of the team at Morgan State University School of Architecture and Planning that created “Transect 7”, who submitted to the AIA Baltimore Spring Lecture Series’ Design Competition, Edge: Harbor and City. For Transect 7, I was a small voice on a team of talented architects, designers and planners who thought of interesting reuses of space along the city’s major parks and waterways. (e.g. Ciera and I came up with the idea of light archways over vehicular and pedestrian pathways).

The presentations have been on traveling display at the AIA Baltimore Architects Bookstore October 4-9, at the opening reception of the competition at the Baltimore Visitor Center since October 10th, and now on display at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, October 24-November 12.

From Baltimore Magazine “Visions for Harborplace Discussed Among Local Architects” by Evan Greenberg on October 23, 2019:

Morgan State University associate professor Samia Rab Kirchner and her students in the school of Architecture and Planning submitted a proposal entitled “Transect 7,” where three different “interventions” (which Kirchner describes as pedestrian pathways) would be installed to better connect neighborhoods and prepare for the changing climate.

“Water is not an edge,” Kirchner says. “It flows from upper ground to lower ground. The more barriers we put in front of it, the more devastating the effect.”

The Morgan State team also placed its emphasis along Jones Falls with three suggested interventions in Cylburn, Station North, and the Inner Harbor. At the Station North bridge, there would be a canoe stop that would allow residents to take an alternate mode of transport to the Inner Harbor as a solution to combat environmental emissions.
As Kirchner sees it, the water is there—it’s just a matter of rerouting it to benefit the city and its residents.
“It’s not creating new waterways,” she says. “It’s connecting to the old waterways that are running but are inaccessible. We believe that having access to water is a right.”

Black Burial Grounds Mapping in Baltimore

I’m assisting Dr. Kami Fletcher in her upcoming book exploring Baltimore’s Mount Auburn Cemetery‘s history and significance. Chiefly, she’s shared with me many maps and descriptors for where burial grounds were located prior to the cemetery’s move to Westport in 1871 (and subsequent expansion in 1903). Here’s my latest geo-referencing map-work. So excited to help her document this hidden history. (Here’s where the “African Burying Ground” aka “Spring Garden” is located…where the M&T Bank Field / Orioles Stadium is now.)
African Burying Ground (1807-1839) – It was located in a section of southwestern Baltimore called Spring Garden. However, in 1807 Spring Gardens was located in Baltimore County because the city expanded in 1817, 1894 and 1918. Its all in the attached file here (“Suburban Growth and Municipal Annexation in Baltimore”. In 1868, the burial ground was located on Cross Street (in 1807 this was Hague Street) and Chestnut Alley. Also referred to as the “Spring Garden Burying Ground for Colored People”. It was located in Southwest Baltimore in 1868. – Dr. Fletcher


Georeferenced Maps overlaid
1807 streetnames:
2019 streetnames:

“Tangerine” Review


Tangerine by Christine Mangan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Obsession and patience are required to fall down the rabbit hole that is Tangerine. Where I wanted Lucy to get her comeuppance, instead, a mélange of the Twilight Zone proves Lucy’s ferver and needs will eclipse even her own expectations. The author delivers a juicy yet bitter fruit in Tangerine; you become entangled in the minds of Lucy and Alice, and begin to wonder where one begins and the other ends. I wanted the story to end differently, but I suppose, then again, so did each of the characters. The winding path that their lives took was hard to put down once I began to read in between the lines, and by then, I became just as lost as they each did: Thinking I knew where I was going, when all along, something was dragging me along, an itch, a knocking at the door.

Mangan’s writing is exceptional and relatable. I look forward to more from this author.

View all my reviews

Middle Branch Park Planning

Middle Branch Park Planning

Did you see the three finalist presentations on developing the actual waterfront? They are AWESOME. Real world, y’all.

Also, I just wanted to update you from the hell that was Studio II.
This summer, I’ll be a fellow with the Westport Community Economic Development Corporation, learning more about land trusts while offering my web design services and non-profit services helping them with their visioning and whatnot. (Lisa Hodges-Hiken is their Exec. Director; she taught my real estate development class!)

This Fall for my second independent study, I’ll be digging into the GIS project with Westport’s Mount Auburn Cemetery, creating a geodatabase and assembling an online archive for a ‘digital museum’ website, to boost it into a proper memorial park with ecological restoration at the forefront (As a followup to our Fall 2018 Studio II work). 

During our last studio, we encouraged the cemetery leadership to adapt the grounds maintenance plans to a wider strategic goal to allow the cemetery to be open to the public (in moderation, over time) to better orient with pedestrian and vehicle connectivity to the Middle Branch and the Gwynns Falls. 

This Fall, I’ll be better crafting the how-to element as we are aware of the upcoming Middle Branch Waterfront work, the Green Network Plan, the Rails to Trails goal of a full City loop, and the Port Covington-Westport Waterfront work.

Hope you’re having an excellent summer.

Transect 7 Ideas Board

Concept board with found images online:

Some of my quick thoughts from our brainstorm for materials for temporary public art:

For the archways: 

I recommend we look at short (3′ or so) segments of large PVC pipe, connected by conduits into an angular arch that would stretch over the pedestrian paths. We’d then drill holes into the pipe and that would allow us to run LED lights inside or along it, or have a hose within that could act as a sprinkler.
The pipe would then be epoxied onto a plywood board and weighed down with sand bags or concrete blocks.
If on display for more than a week, I’d recommend we get an engineer’s spec and get proper concrete footer permits, including digging and pouring and all that.
For the stormwater catchers, I’m still a bit unclear of how it’d be designed. But if we use smaller PVC pipes with conduits, that’s certainly workable and we could use hard netting with muslin and an acrylic paint for decoration.

Clyburn Arboretum

Clyburn Arboretum, Park Heights, Baltimore, MD

19 new photos added to shared album

via Instagram

White on green

via Instagram

A plane passes by, “Stonach keep Preakness in Baltimore.” Somebody paid money for that.

via Instagram

Stained glass window. More photos at

via Instagram

Stained glass window. More photos at @ Cylburn Arboretum Association

— Justin Fair (@Soulstrong) May 18, 2019

The gray lady sits, lost in thought as she looks at her garden.

via Instagram

Pattern Inspiration

Pattern Inspiration

Pinned: Erwin Hauer 3-D screens — Justin Fair (@Soulstrong) May 18, 2019
Pinned: Vainqueur du concours annuel Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition, LOT, studio de design et d’architecture basé à New York et en Grèce a créé cette installation publique lumineuse et ludique. Située à côté du Madison Square Park, Fla… — Justin Fair (@Soulstrong) May 18, 2019
Pinned: PolygonModelingErwinHauerV — Justin Fair (@Soulstrong) May 18, 2019