University of Maryland, Baltimore says a new community center will help expand its outreach in West Baltimore.
The UMB Community Engagement Center at 16 S. Poppleton St. in Hollins Market is planned to be 20,000 square feet — seven times the size of its current center. The four-story building was formerly part of the St. Peter’s Church at the site, and was most recently a drug and alcohol residential treatment center. Now it will undergo a renovation to prepare it to be the home of community-center activities.
Opened in 2015, the current community center has grown to have more than 35,000 visits with programs connecting residents to jobs, education and recreation opportunities for children, health and fitness programs and more, officials say. UMB’s Office of Community Engagement, working with community partners and a community advisory board, saw growing demand for the services.
“Together, we have imagined, planned, brainstormed, and convened many residents to deliver a new community center that will be a welcoming, fun, educational, relaxing, respectful, and transformational space for our neighbors,” said Ashley Valis, executive director for the Office of Community Engagement. “It will be a place that our community deserves and has been needed for a long time.”
Programming at the space will include the following: an exercise/dance studio, a large room for community meals and events, a safe play area for children, a wellness suite and a larger computer lab. And room is also being made for food market programs and a kitchen where residents can learn healthy cooking and meals can be prepared for programs, according to UMB.
Specific programs will also be housed at the center. The space will be the home for CURE Scholars, a UMB program which prepares middle and high school students for careers in research, STEM fields and health care. Another is UMB Health Alliance, which is led by students and overseen by faculty. The program provides preventative health education to residents in the area on asthma, hypertension, diabetes and mental health. Space is also being set aside for the West Baltimore expansion of Digital Harbor Foundation’s Mini-Makers, which introduces maker activities to elementary schools.
To fund the center, UMB received a $4 million grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as $4 million through private philanthropy.
Construction begins this month and is expected to be completed in 2020.
The center arrives as UMB has been expanding neighborhood-campus connections in the area of the campus and the University of Maryland BioPark. The center will be located near The GRID, which UMB opened last year to provide a space for social entrepreneurs and startups.
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