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 and will continue for 7 months.
Construction will be complete in Spring 2022.