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Signage reads "CAB CALLOWAY," "HISTORY HIDES IN DARKNESS," "Black History was made HERE!" and "DO NOT DEMOLISH!" on the front facade of Cab Calloway's former home at 2216 Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore.
Signage reads "CAB CALLOWAY," "HISTORY HIDES IN DARKNESS," "Black History was made HERE!" and "DO NOT DEMOLISH!" on the front facade of Cab Calloway's former home at 2216 Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore. (Sameer Rao / Baltimore Sun)

On Saturday afternoon, nearly 30 community residents, leaders and other stakeholders gathered at the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation’s offices — around the corner from the derelict rowhome at 2216 Druid Hill Ave. where Cab Calloway once lived — to learn what a new park named after the hometown celebrity might look like.

Anna Dennis and Brian Reetz of local architecture firm Design Collective presented results of a community survey on the park, as well as two design concepts, for most of the meeting. The company had worked with the DHCDC and Baltimore city’s Office of Planning to develop the park and solicit community input before members of Calloway’s family and their allies began protesting the park, which would have involved demolishing the vacant house.

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These responses informed the design options, both of which incorporated the facade, marble steps and other house materials into the park’s construction. For instance, both designs featured an archway from the facade as an entrance to the park along Druid Hill Avenue. They also designated different areas for possible future buildings, communal activity spaces and lights to ward off crime.

Option A and Option B for possible designs for Cab Calloway Square, as presented by Design Collective at the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation's meeting on July 27, 2019.
Option A and Option B for possible designs for Cab Calloway Square, as presented by Design Collective at the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation's meeting on July 27, 2019. (Sameer Rao/Sameer Rao / Baltimore Sun)

Reetz told the audience that the team is soliciting additional feedback and ideas, and will report again with updates at the community meeting on Sept. 27. DHCDC Executive Director Anthony Pressley noted that while they are open to suggestions, “we are now moving forward with Cab Calloway Square.”

Before the presentation, Pressley gave Calloway’s grandson Peter C. Brooks, the most visible advocate for the house’s preservation, time to deliver a statement that he also posted on Facebook Saturday morning.

“We are happy to accept the invitation that the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation has given us as the living descendants, a seat at the table in the design and development of Calloway Square,” Brooks wrote. “We are grateful that you accept and can profit from our resources and years of experience in such endeavors.”

We start by acknowledging the many fine people in this room today…. Thank you to the Druid Heights Community...

Posted by Peter C. Brooks on Saturday, July 27, 2019

Brooks told The Baltimore Sun after the meeting that Design Collective “came up with a really impressive solution for the community.” He added that he would still hope to see the house preserved as a cultural memento and driver of economic development.

“I feel very confident that there is money for preservation for a house like this," he said.

“I’m working with [the DHCDC], I feel like I’m at the table, they invited me and put me on the agenda, and I’m extremely happy about that,” he said.

Jacquelyn Cornish, DHCDC’s founder and president of its executive committee, mentioned during the meeting that the park would likely take between $5 million to $10 million for full development. She told The Sun that the debates around the house are ultimately positive for the area.

“We appreciate what Mr. Brooks has brought to the community, because it’s bringing attention to what the community has tried to do all these years ... which is to revitalize community,” she said.

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