Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects completed the renovation of a 1931 school building to expand the Sarah’s Hope Transitional Housing Facility for Women and Children in early 2015. The $7 million project, commissioned by Baltimore City Department of General Services and St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, comprehensively renovated the 38,000-square foot facility.

Now that this interior renovation is complete and Sarah’s Hope is using the building to its full capacity, Murphy & Dittenhafer has also completed plans for site improvements that will develop the surrounding 1.34-acre site.

The site improvements project will transform the existing urban site within the historic Old West Baltimore district from 95% asphalt and concrete into a welcoming and engaging green space that can provide outdoor program and leisure space for the women, children, and men served by Sarah’s Hope and the surrounding Sandtown-Winchester community.

This new, reclaimed green space will provide an outdoor sanctuary that facilitates a safe and engaging, sustainable setting and enhances the aesthetics of the greater neighborhood. The space currently includes 46,000 square feet of asphalt and concrete that limits its use for outdoor programming. Murphy & Dittenhafer’s plan will replace it with flexible open lawns, age-appropriate play equipment, and outdoor program space for both Sarah’s Hope and the PACT Therapeutic Nursery, which offers specialized care for children from infant through three years and their families who have been displaced from their homes. Landscaping will be carefully designed to create a sense of home for residents, increase shade, add aesthetic interest, and improve visibility across the site - a critical feature for security and safety.

The site will be regraded to improve ADA accessibility, and will reconfigure parking for more efficient vehicular delivery and better pedestrian access. The design treats 100% of roof and site rainwater run-off through improved stormwater management practices.

The project will drastically reduce the amount of impervious surface coverage from 46,000 square feet to 19,000 square feet, a substantial reduction that requires extensive coordination of existing soil types, landscaping, stormwater management regulations and best management practices, and adjacent properties, including an existing CSX railway line. Existing grading conditions, including a change of nearly 12 feet in elevation from the building’s first floor to the street level, will be reconciled to provide ADA accessibility and still accommodate the play areas, open spaces, and other new uses of the site. Security will be strategically planned for client safety.

Construction for the $1.2 million site improvements project is slated to begin in early 2016 and last approximately nine months.