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 declined rapidly due to deferred maintenance and was in dire need of repair. Without the development of the Unity Hall, the building would have fallen further in disrepair and contributed to blight in the neighborhood. The redevelopment of the Unity Hall will turn what could become a community liability into a community asset, which builds on the investments that MAC and Somerset have made to date in the neighborhood.
Long before the Union Hall for Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers stood the Phoenix Club, a social club for the Baltimore Jewish Community.
In partnership with Somerset Development Company, LLC, MAC--a neighborhood 501c3-- purchased the former Empowerment Temple which was vacant and distressed with plans to transform the building into a Center for Community Arts, Education and Training. A neighborhood Vision Session was hosted at Pedestal Gardens Apartments in June with standing room only. A Baltimore Unity Hall Advisory Committee meeting made up of representatives of MAC, key Anchor Tenants, community engagement organizers as well as staff from the development team was formed. Community outreach continued with Unity Hall Advisory Committee members attending meetings with the Bolton Hill Community Association, Upton Planning Committee, and Madison Park Improvement Association. Listening sessions with neighborhood residents were conducted. A Community event at the Y at 1609 Druid Hill Avenue brought neighbors together to break bread, connect and learn more about the Unity Hall.
As our last in-person community engagement event in March, we had a Branding Workshop with Community Stakeholders. Construction documents were finalized and a value engineering exercise with Southway was concluded. The Covid-19 pandemic struck the United States and general lock down stalled the forward movement of the economy, including planning on the Unity Hall. Despite the slowdown, the development team and the Advisory Committee continued to work virtually. Five Letters of Intent from key community stakeholders to locate in the building were signed.
BUH, Inc., a 501c3 Private Operating Foundation, signed a Master lease with MAC to manage and oversee the building. A Local Hiring Program was developed in concert with Southway Builders, the BUH Advisory Committee and other stakeholders to assure residents of Central West Baltimore participated in anticipation of new construction jobs associated with the redevelopment of the Unity Hall. Construction began in July.
Five office leases were signed with anchor tenants, No Boundaries, Building Our Nation's Daughters, Single Carrot Theatre, Baltimore Music Box, and The Community Builders. Construction will be complete in Spring 2022. The Unity Hall will host the participants of Baltimore Homecoming on May 5. Mayor Scott will officiate at the ribbon cutting on June 17.