On a sunny March afternoon, the Locust Point Community Garden showed its first signs of bloom after a mild winter.
Little purple buds peeked out from a rosemary bush. Bees buzzed about four hives. Black-eyed Susans began to grow. One gardener had started planting vegetables for the spring and summer months.
At the thought of the space in full bloom, garden manager Dave Arndt let out a sigh. “It’s just so beautiful,” he said.
Community members say the garden, which sits between Haubert and Hull streets, has become a treasured hub for the neighborhood in recent years — but it is at risk.
Under Armour, which owns the garden plot located near its Tide Point headquarters and opened it up to the community around 2018, expects to put the land on the market, according to a spokesperson. The sports apparel company is set to wind down operations in Locust Point and move to its new corporate headquarters in the Baltimore Peninsula by the end of next year.
“Under Armour has enjoyed a strong partnership with the Locust Point Community, which has allowed us to maintain an open campus for all to enjoy,” a company spokesperson said. “We look forward to sharing just how important this partnership has been with the future owner(s) of these properties.”
Locust Point neighbors are concerned the land will be developed into rowhouses — taking away a beloved green space — and are asking for another way forward. An online petition has garnered over 1,300 signatures.
The garden is a place where they can gather with and get to know their neighbors, residents say. People share seeds and food. They step in to help water a plot if a neighbor is out of town. They learn from one another’s gardening mistakes, successes and experiments.
When Arndt’s son was diagnosed with testicular cancer, it was a doctor they’d met at the garden who first operated on him. “That’s how powerful the garden really is in bringing people together,” Arndt said.
For Michelle Barrett, who has worked in the garden for one season and lived in Locust Point for over 20 years, spending time there is immediately relaxing. It’s a getaway from the stimulation of the city and of electronic devices. She doesn’t take her phone, and usually ventures in alone. “OK, now I’m in my happy place,” she thinks, taking a deep breath and enjoying the calm.
For Nicole Poulos, the garden is a place to manage her bees and teach others about them. If passersby ask, she may walk a hive frame right up to the fence.
“It’s just one of those places that’s such a huge value to the community,” said gardener and Locust Point Civic Association board member-at-large Matt Farcosky, “and you’re not going to be able to replace it. Ever.”
The garden was started by an Under Armour employee years ago and opened up to Locust Point residents in 2018 after former employee Ben Koch took over as head gardener. It fell into relative disuse when the pandemic hit in 2020 and many employees began working from home.
Arndt moved into the neighborhood that fall. When he peered inside the fence during walks, he saw six-foot-high weeds in some plots. Others looked like they’d never been planted. People had grown tomatoes, but no one was picking them.
“And I’m just watching all this stuff die,” Arndt said. He reached out to Under Armour and others to find out more about the space, and when they told him there wasn’t anyone managing it, he replied, “Well, shoot, I’ll manage it for you.” Then he got to work, sending out emails to former plot holders and organizing work days to rid the garden of weeds and tidy each plot.
Soon, vegetables and fruits were growing again.
Pumpkins had sprung up naturally that year – 28 in all – and around Halloween, community members gathered for a festival where kids could paint and carve pumpkins. Neighbors participated in ice-breakers to get to know one another better. Gardeners aim to host three gatherings a year.
Arndt puts extra vegetables that neighbors can’t eat into a basket that hangs outside the garden for people who need food to take. He’ll also offer extras to local restaurants to serve in their dishes.
All that could get taken away if the land is sold to someone who wants to put up new construction, and neighbors are concerned.
When gardener Christina Majernik heard the news, “it broke my heart,” she said. She’d only agreed to move into the neighborhood after seeing it had a community garden. She’d been on the waitlist for a few years, but finally got a plot in 2022.
“This is the one thing that I really wanted, the community garden, and I’m finally part of it, and now it’s going to be taken away,” she said.
Arndt said he hopes Under Armour may agree to maintain ownership of the land and let the Locust Point Civic Association manage it, as it does now. Or, the company could donate it to Baltimore Green Space or another third party.
“The garden is such a driver for involvement across the community,” said Farcosky. “It would be incredible if it was somehow able to continue.”
The story has been updated to correct the spelling of Matt Farcosky's last name.