At the start of the 2019 New Year, we brought aboard two talented newsletter editors to join our team. APA Maryland members Olivia Ceccarelli-McGonigal and Ashlee Green will be providing their expertise and support for each newsletter that is published monthly. They will spearhead research on relevant topics happening in Maryland, locate articles of interest to planners, and assist with general editing and formatting on each issue. We are excited to have them aboard!
I’m Ashlee Green and I am a project manager for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. I currently manage the neighborhood revitalization capital project grants for the Upper Eastern Shore (Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot and Caroline Counties) as well as Harford County. Before joining the department in 2017, I worked as a program assistant for the Black History Program for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission where I assisted in managing three historic properties and provided black history programming year round. I have a Master’s in Community Planning from the University of Maryland-College Park and certificate in Historic Preservation. I am originally from Gary, Indiana and attended Indiana University where I received my Bachelor’s in Journalism and African/African-American Diaspora Studies with a minor in Latino Studies.
My interest in planning stemmed from my love of historic preservation and an internship at a lobbying firm. I have always loved history but the overlap between it and the built environment is what led me to planning. I wanted to know more about how to save buildings, adaptive reuse that could take place in buildings, and how those uses could solve problems such as housing affordability and sustainability. I also worked at a lobbying firm that represented a variety of clients. I found that clients and issues surrounding housing, community and economic development, and transportation intrigued me the most.
As a project manager for the Department of Housing and Community Development, I like to see the impact we have on large and small communities alike. To see the impact of a facade program on a Main Street, a pocket park in neighborhood, or the renovation of a historic building that now houses non-profit or an incubator is very pleasing to see from start to finish.
I think we should be paying more attention to housing affordability. Housing affordability has now hit a 10-year low. U.S. homes dropped to their least affordable point since 2008. Although it can be deemed as a “wicked” problem, it a problem that it sometimes swept under the rug.
Hi there! I’m Olivia Ceccarelli-McGonigal and I’m at the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Division of Neighborhood Revitalization. I provide support for Project C.O.R.E., the $75 million initiative to address vacant and derelict buildings in Baltimore City and support community and economic growth. I also provide technical and grants management assistance to local government and nonprofit partners in southeast Baltimore City and Baltimore County. I earned my AICP in November 2017 (woo whoo!!!!) and I have a Master’s degree in Community Planning from the University of Maryland (Class of 2013).
For a few years I wrote for a community newspaper in southeastern Pennsylvania, my hometown, where I covered main street events, local government, school board happenings, and everything in between. Being witness to the birth of positive change in your community like that is very exciting – and also quite addicting. I remember I would sit there in the audience furiously scribbling in my notebook but thinking that I wished I could be on the other side of the table as a decision-maker. My editor and one of the township managers were very encouraging when I was contemplating my career change.
My favorite part of what I do is definitely the people and communities. I don’t get to do site visits of the projects we are funding or communities that I work with as much as I would like. Over the years I have been very lucky to be working with several community groups that are just forming. It’s hard work but also beautiful to see how all the different planning pieces come together in a capital project or a new strategic plan.
I would like to be more focused on youth planning and getting people knowledgeable and empowered from a young age. I feel like there are lots of opportunities for young people to be involved and yet they are not a cohort that is regularly engaged.