Baltimore Unity Hall
1505 Eutaw Place, Baltimore, MD 21217
Somerset Development Company, LLC and Memorial Apartments Corporation (MAC), a local non-profit organization, have partnered to acquire, renovate and transform the former Empowerment Temple, located at 1505 Eutaw Place, into a Center for Community Arts, Education, and Job-Training. The building was originally built in 1964 as the Union Hall for Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers and, until several years ago, the Empowerment Temple Church ran community programs out of the building. In recent years, the building had been vacant and had declined rapidly due to deferred maintenance. The Unity Hall will provide affordable programming and office spaces for community organizations. It will provide a venue for community meetings and events, art exhibits, music performances, community theater, and other cultural events, as well as program spaces for education, outreach services, and workforce development. A new commercial kitchen on the lower level will create a venue for a local catering operation and culinary arts training, which will provide a real-world experience for those seeking employment in the restaurant industry. An auditorium will be host to community events and meetings, training and education sessions, arts and cultural events, and exhibitions. In addition, there will be 6 artist studios, spaces for co-working will accommodate up to 15 independent workers.
The development of the Unity Hall as a Center for Community Arts, Education, and Training has been done collaboratively with community input to create a common vision and commitment to serve the needs of the surrounding communities. The Unity Hall is intended to break down barriers that have traditionally divided the community and to build a healthy, safe neighborhood for all, by providing offices and working spaces for organizations offering programs beneficial to the community. The Unity community of tenants and stakeholders will further economic development and social justice by maintaining an accessible and inclusive culture and physical space. It will be run on a non-profit basis.
A Unity Hall Advisory Committee has been created to advise MAC, the owner of the building, Baltimore Unity Hall, Inc., a non-profit that is master leasing the building, and their development partner Somerset, which is leading the design and development aspects of the building renovation. The Advisory Committee is made up of key stakeholders and community members who have come together to create this common vision: Ashiah Parker of No Boundaries Coalition, the Reverend Grey Maggiano of the Memorial Episcopal Church, and a Board member of MAC, Ateira Griffin of Building Our Nation’s Daughters (BOND), Washina Ford of The Community Builders, Jeremy Lyons and Stephanie Ray of the Baltimore Music Box, Jim Campbell and Jake Stern of Somerset Development Company, and Jessica Wyatt, an independent Community Engagement Specialist.
MAC, a 501c3 non-profit, in collaboration with Somerset, a mission-driven for-profit firm, acquired the building in January 2019 and signed a development agreement to lead the design and development of the building. Previously, MAC and Somerset successfully partnered on two projects contiguous to the Unity Hall. The redevelopment of Linden Park Apartments (formerly the Memorial Apartments) preserved 266 units of affordable, senior housing and transformed the once dilapidated building into a state-of-the-art senior apartment building, rich in amenities and resident services. In addition, the partnership sub-divided the original Linden Park site in order to build a new apartment building called “The Jordan”, which has 62 units of market-rate apartments with a ground-floor restaurant called “The Tilted Row”. The Tilted Row, which opened in June of 2019, has strengthened community ties in the neighborhood by serving as an important gathering place where neighbors convene.
The preservation of affordable housing for seniors at Linden Park and the new apartment units at The Jordan contributed to the realization of the vision of the neighborhood-based HUD Choice Neighborhoods planning process by creating mixed-income housing and increasing access to retail. The redevelopment of the Unity Hall will further strengthen the neighborhood by adding important cultural amenities and services tailored to the needs of this underserved community.
At the Unity Hall, the development team has stabilized the building by repairing the roof, waterproofed where necessary, remediated hazardous materials and completed interior demolition. The development team is working with the architectural firm, Ziger Snead for design development and Southway Builders for value engineering. Construction drawings are now complete. Construction started in 2021 and is expected to be completed in early 2022.
To date, the development team has received five Letters of Intent to locate at the Unity Hall from community organizations committed to the provision of services such as employment training, dynamic after school programming, mental health services, support to single mothers, and referrals. In addition to the financial contributions made by MAC and Somerset, the Unity Hall partnership is seeking to leverage its already significant investment in the building with other financial partners who are interested in joining forces to provide to this important community center in Central West Baltimore.
To date, The Community Builders, BOND, No Boundaries Coalition, Baltimore Music Box, and Single Carrot Theatre have signed Letters of Intent. Interest and commitment to the redevelopment of the Unity Hall has remained strong throughout the pandemic, reflective of the strong commitment and need for community development in Central West Baltimore.
Unity Hall featured in the Baltimore Fishbowl: Baltimore Fishbowl | Community arts and education project launches in Bolton Hill –
Unity Hall featured in the Baltimore Sun: Unity Hall project seeks to bridge neighborhoods – Baltimore Sun
Unity Hall Groundbreaking Celebration covered by Local News: Groundbreaking ceremony held for Baltimore community center (wmar2news.com)