Fall of 2010, when we first announced Baltimore as one of five sites selected to remake America’s great urban places and reconnect residents to economic opportunity, I declared that there was no more important work that we could undertake. Halfway through this three-year effort, I stand behind these words.
Baltimore was selected by Living Cities, a collaboration of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions, to participate in its national Integration Initiative, designed to address some of the most pressing challenges facing America’s cities.
Baltimore identified two critical goals: connecting residents to real jobs and driving investment to central-city neighborhoods. The Baltimore Integration Partnership was established to address these goals and is a collaboration of city and state governments, philanthropic organizations, private institutions, and nonprofits, with the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers and The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) as lead organizations.
While Baltimore continues to face a challenging economy and making real progress on our goals is slower than we would all like, Baltimore is moving forward.
Credit for some recent accomplishments can be given to TRF, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), which is a specialized financial entity committed to providing capital to help low-wealth people and communities join the economic mainstream. As a CDFI, TRF finances housing, community facilities, food access, commercial real estate and energy efficiency projects.
TRF recently announced the financing of two major education-related projects in Baltimore — the Maryland Institute College of Art’s (MICA) Studio Center and the Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School (Henderson-Hopkins). Both projects signal new momentum in two challenged Baltimore neighborhoods and together are expected to bring over 200 jobs and serve over 700 students.
The MICA Studio Center, which houses the school’s graduate programs, is located in a repurposed 100-year-old former Jos. A. Bank garment factory. This renovation will support MICA’s ambitious plan to grow and expand its graduate programs by creating additional studio and gallery space as well as an auditorium and a cafe.
School anchors EBDI project
On seven acres in East Baltimore, the Henderson-Hopkins school, which is the new name for the East Baltimore Community School (EBCS), will house 540 kindergarteners through eighth graders in a new 90,000-square-foot building and 175 students in a new 28,000-square-foot early childhood center known as The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Early Childhood Center.
The new campus is the cornerstone of a major redevelopment effort by East Baltimore Development Inc. to revitalize 88 blighted acres adjacent to the Johns Hopkins Hospital and create a thriving mixed-use community for families, businesses and public institutions.
TRF provided New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) totaling over $20 million for the two projects. JPMorgan Chase partnered with TRF for the MICA project, serving as the equity investor and bringing an additional $3 million from its own NMTC allocation.
The EBCS construction is a larger NMTC project and includes NMTC investments from Harbor Bank, City First and the Nonprofit Finance Fund in addition to those from TRF. The project has equity investments from USBank and significant additional investment from several philanthropic and institutional partners including the Weinberg Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Rouse Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Institutions.
“These projects are symbolic of TRF’s long-term commitment to Baltimore,” explained Don Hinkle-Brown, TRF’s president and CEO. “In the past five years, we have invested $50 million in these neighborhoods through our lending and real estate development efforts. The MICA Studio Center and the Henderson-Hopkins school are more than just catalysts for economic development — they are investments in creating world-class educational opportunities and building vibrant communities in Baltimore.”
To learn more about the Baltimore Integration Partnership, visit www.baltimorepartnership.org and for more information about TRF, go to www.trfund.com.
Betsy Nelson, president of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, writes every other week for The Daily Record. She can be reached at 410-727-1205 or firstname.lastname@example.org.