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Nonprofit rehabbing rowhomes near Penn Station for affordable housing

Empire Homes of Maryland has bought six rowhouses in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District that it will renovate and turn into affordable, one-bedroom apartments for the disabled.

The $3.3 million project in the 1600, 1700 and 1800 blocks of North Calvert Street will result in 18 apartments when its completed this summer. Construction will begin in January.

The Baltimore City Housing Authority owned the vacant rowhouses that are spread throughout the project site. Empire Homes, a non-profit developer and property manager of affordable housing headquartered on North Charles Street, bought the rowhouses at a cost of about $10,000 each, according to president and CEO T.F. Burden.
“Because they are public housing properties, they can only be used for that purpose," Buden says. "They can’t be rehabbed and sold for market rate or turned into single-family housing.”
The rowhouses are located near Amtrak’s Pennsylvania Station and Baltimore School of Design, a public high school.
Each of the six rowhouses will contain three units. Rent will cost about $650 per month, with the tenant paying a maximum of 30 percent of his or her income. The city and Innovative Housing Institute, a downtown nonprofit, will choose tenants from the city’s housing choice voucher wait list.
Empire Homes obtained funding from several sources for the project, including $1.8 million from the state, $700,000 from the city, $300,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank and $300,000 from bank financing.
Last July, Empire Homes opened another affordable rental project in Station North. The Lillian Jones Apartments, at 1303 Greenmount Ave., were constructed on a vacant lot. The four-story, 74-unit building has one- , two- and three-bedroom apartments. Empire Homes and city real estate developer the French Development Company partnered on the $16.1 million project.
Source: T.F. Burden, Empire Homes of Maryland
Writer: Barbara Pash at [email protected]

Ryleigh's Oyster opens new Timonium location

The owner of Ryleigh’s Oyster House opened his second location in Timonium this month after investing $2 million to transform the former Gibby's Seafood spot into the 300-seat restaurant.

The 10,000-square-foot location at 22 W. Padonia Road has a 2,000-square-foot rooftop herb garden available for private dining, and a patio.

“There was never any curb appeal,” Ryleigh’s Owner Brian McComas says of the former location. “So we definitely made it ‘shore house chic’ and rebuilt the whole front section of the building.”

The original Ryleigh’s is a Federal Hill stalwart, featuring over 100 different kinds of oysters in the course of a year. The new Timonium outpost will have a similar menu, with a few tweaks for the suburban dining scene, focusing a little more on traditional entrees, and a little less on shared or communal plates.

As in Federal Hill, the oysters play a starring role. In partnership with the Shooting Point Oyster Company, Ryleigh’s grows its own farm-raised oysters called Avery’s Pearls on Virginia’s Eastern shore. McComas says these smaller oysters are good for bivalve beginners.

“In order to address the people who think an oyster’s this big slimy thing, we cultivate our own," McComas says. Avery’s Oysters are small, petite, cocktail oysters, so that you don’t get this big hunk of slimy stuff.”

McComas recently held the Moet Oyster Ball Oct. 9 at Ryleigh’s in Federal Hill. The $65 tickets included an oyster bar, open bar and hors d’oeuvres. The event kicked off OysterFest Oct 12-13. The Cross Street festival featured the annual Baltimore Oyster Shucking Competition, as well as live music and raw bars. Proceeds for both benefited the Living Classrooms Foundation and the Oyster Recovery Partnership. 

Writer: Amy Landsman
Sources: Scotti Offutt and Brian McComas, Ryleigh's Oyster 

Dress for Success getting more closet space in new Northeast Baltimore digs

The local affiliate of Dress for Success is moving to 5525 Belair Road in June, an expansion that will give the nonprofit more room to outfit low-income women with gently used professional clothing.
Dress will occupy about 1,300-square-feet on the lower level and first floor of a rowhouse in the city’s Waltherson neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore.
Since 2009, Dress for Success has been renting space in the Anchorage Building, belonging to St. Ann Parish Church at 528 E. 22nd Street in the city’s Barclay neighborhood.
Dress for Success Executive Director Cleona Garfield says the nonprofit has outgrown the Anchorage and has been searching for larger quarters since 2011 after getting more donations.
The nonprofit received $23,000 in donations in fiscal year 2011, the most recent tax return filed on GuideStar. Garfield says she couldn’t even guess how many donations it received recently.
“Oh boy! I don’t know how to explain it to you other than to say we get a lot of donations.”
Property owner Jacob Danyali, the owner of Mercury Management LLC, says he’ll invest about $10,000 into painting, refinishing the wood floors, and other improvements for the group. Dress for Success will pay an undisclosed below-market rent.  Danyali has owned the property about ten years.
Dress for Success will use the first floor for the boutique and offices, and the lower floor for clothing storage. The boutique is set up just like a shop, with work-appropriate career coats, dresses, suits, blouses and blazers, all neatly sized and on racks. Shoes and bags are also on display.
A volunteer stylist meets with the client, gets an idea of her style, and selects an outfit for her. The client then tries everything on to see how it looks.
Once a client lands a new job, she returns to Dress for Success for additional clothes to help her build a professional wardrobe.
Dress for Success also runs career development workshops, focusing on everything from money management, to the importance of showing up for work on time.
Many of Baltimore’s Dress for Success clients find jobs in customer service; others land entry-level work in medicine or education. In 2012, the organization helped 500 women.
Dress for Success in Baltimore has about 20 volunteers. Founded in New York in 1997, Dress for Success now has affiliates across the U.S. and worldwide.
Reporter: Amy Landsman
Sources: Cleona Garfield, executive director, Dress for Success Baltimore; Jacob Danyali, owner, Mercury Management

Posh Retro Clothing Store Debuts in Federal Hill

Trendy professionals in Federal Hill can now throw a party decked out in retro clothing.
Posh Retro opened this month at 1003 Light St. But Amber Ivey’s store operates a bit differently than your average retail outfit.

It is open to the public on Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The rest of the week, customers can call and schedule “lifestyle parties” for 15-30 guests ranging from shopping parties to business lunches. Hostesses receive discounts on future purchases and “swag bags”, and nonprofits that schedule a “Party with a Purpose” receive 20 percent of each sale toward their organization’s mission.
Posh Retro’s new-and-used clothing caters male and female customers ages 21-mid 30s/early 40s. Items average around $39. While Ivey currently has three employees and is looking to hire about five women ages 22-26 to work as brand representatives. She has a goal to expand in 18 months with locations in Washington, D.C., and Boston.
Ivey, who invested $15,000 for the Baltimore location, was happy when the roughly 1,000-square-foot-location became available. “Posh Retro fits Federal Hill,” Ivey says. “There’s a young, hip vibe with people who want clothes that are a little different.”
Ivey opened Posh Retro in 2008 in Newport News, Va., and then Portsmouth, Va., in 2011 for a year. She decided to move the store with her to Baltimore while pursuing a master in public administration at University of Maryland at College Park.
The business owner donates about 15 percent of each customer’s purchase to Mission: Launch, Inc., a Baltimore nonprofit that assists job seekers once they have been released from prison.
Writer: Jolene Carr,
Source: Amber Ivey, Posh Retro 

$3M Cultural Center Opens in Greektown

It's been almost 14 years in the making, but St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church debuted its multi-level banquet hall and cultural center this week.
The Plateia, which means ‘town square’ in Greek, aims to be the anchor of Greektown, says Jason Fillippou, director of the Greektown Community Development Corporation.
An approximately $3 million investment, the funds for the project were raised through community donations, major philanthropies, a series of fundraisers, and public-backed loans, Fillippou says.
The center, owned and operated by St. Nicholas, is located at 701-703 S. Ponca St.

Greektown Community Development Corp. will assist the church with programming and promotion.
So far, only the first floor, which has a standing-room capacity of 300, is open. The upstairs will be completed soon and seats 500. The Plateia also features a large outdoor arena with a stage to hold outdoor concerts.
The focus of the center will be on community outreach and programs for the local community including cooking, language, and computer classes.
The center plans to partner with local schools to showcase student art, as well as host events such as concerts and poetry readings. Fillippou hopes the center will be the hub for arts and culture in Greektown and expects the project to attract new investment in the community by bringing in new prospective homeowners and parishioners.
The church purchased the land on Ponca Street in 1984, and initially held a groundbreaking for the project in 2000.
Source: Jason Fillippou, Executive Director, Greektown Community Development Corp.
 Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Developer Turning Vacant Station North Building Into Restaurants, Studios

A nonprofit developer has purchased a vacant building on North Avenue that it hopes to transform into restaurants, galleries, artists studios and theater space within three years.

Jubilee Baltimore is talking to Joe Squared’s Joe Edwardsen about the possibility of his opening a Mexican restaurant at the 10 E. North Ave. property, Edwardsen and Jubilee President Charlie Duff say. The developer is also in talks with Single Carrot Theatre, which has been scouting for a space with more seating capacity.

Jubilee Baltimore Inc. bought 10 E. North Ave. from Greater Grace Church at a public city auction this month for $93,000.  The state estimates the land and 67,000-square-foot building is worth more than $2 million, public records show.

The eventual transformation of the three-story building will require a major rehab, Duff says. He doesn’t yet have a cost estimate as to what the renovation will cost.

“North Avenue needs cool things happening,” Duff says. “There isn’t enough space in Station North – that’s why we bought this building. We want to make it one of the key arts and entertainment building in Baltimore.”

Writer: Julekha Dash
Sources: Charlie Duff, Jubilee Baltimore; Joe Edwardsen, Joe Squared

Knott Foundation Sees Tax Credit Boost to Non-Profit Investment

The head of Baltimore's Marion I. and Henry J. Knott Foundation says an expansion of Maryland's million-dollar Community Investment Tax Credit program to include corporate donors could help non-profit organizations expand their physical investments in the city, in addition to boosting programming.

"When I directed Light Street Housing, we used the CITC program to develop new relationships and garner tens of thousands of increased donations," says Knott Foundation executive director Greg Cantori.

Under the CITC, organizations that have received grants from foundations or other grantmakers can distribute tax credits to donors in order to spur more strategic giving. Donors, in turn, receive a tax credit that can be added to state and federal deductions the same year, or rolled over for as many as five years.

Donors can find non-profit organizations that match their giving goals and have available tax credits on the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development's GIVE Maryland site, here: http://www.mdhousing.org/givemaryland/

Writer: Sam Hopkins
Source: Greg Cantori, Knott Foundation

City Opens New Homeless Shelter

A 275-bed homeless shelter opened this month in Baltimore, part of the city's 10-year plan to end homelessness.

The 30,000-square-foot Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Housing and Resource Center at 620 Fallsway holds a cafeteria, day rooms, job training, and a convalescent care program.

Funding for the $8 million construction comes from the state, city, and foundations, including the Abell Foundation, the France-Merrick Foundation, and the Weinberg Foundation.

The city has set up a website, endinten.org, to outline its 10-year-plan to end homeless, says Kate Briddell, director of homeless service programs for Baltimore City. The plan to try to address the leading causes of homelessness, including lack of affordable housing, unemployment, and access to healthcare services.

Addressing the problem is tough in this economy when many people are out of work, Bridell says.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Source: Kate Bridell, Baltimore City

Living Classrooms, Corks' Jerry Pellegrino to Open Waterfront Restaurant

A restaurant with a waterfront view and seasonal menu will open by September at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park. Designed by Patrick Sutton, the 75-seat Vu at Living Classrooms will feature a menu crafted by Corks' Jerry Pellegrino and cost more than $900,000 to build.

Foundation staff are calling the Vu a "seed-to-plate" restaurant, because it will serve produce grown at Living Classrooms Foundation's after-school gardening program, says Richard Slingluff, the nonprofit's facilities manager. That program is known as Baltimore Urban Gardening With Students, or BUGS.

"We're excited to work with our students to get as much student-grown produce to be served at a high-end restaurant one block away," Slingluff says.

The first-floor restaurant will feature floor-to-ceiling windows facing the Domino Sugar factory and Fort McHenry, Living Classrooms CEO James Piper Bond says.

The restaurant will hopefully bring in revenue to support the maritime park, Bond says.

On Mondays, restaurant employees will provide hospitality and culinary training to Living Classrooms' students. The nonprofit oversees after-school and job training programs for at-risk youth.

"It's a beautiful space on the water," Pellegrino says. "How can you beat that?"

Writer: Julekha Dash
Sources: James Piper Bond, Richard Slingluff, Living Classrooms; Jerry Pellegrino, Corks

Nonprofit Building $10M Homeless Shelter in East Baltimore

A Baltimore nonprofit recently broke ground on a $9.2 million homeless shelter facing Patterson Park.

Dayspring Baltimore is constructing a 43,000-square foot building at 1125 N. Patterson Park Ave. that will house 22 families, four Head Start classrooms and offices for the nonprofit's 37 employees.

Funding for the facility comes from the New Market Tax Credit equity, city and state funds, the Weinberg and Abell Foundations and PNC Bank.  

Dayspring Programs Inc. provides housing, substance abuse treatment an support services to homeless families. It has an operating budget of around $4.4 million and serves 600 individuals.

Maryland Nabs $44.2M from Feds for Homeless Programs

As part of its ongoing effort to reduce homelessness across the country, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency has awarded more than $44.2 million in funding to keep the doors of 208 local homeless assistance programs in Maryland open and operating in 2011. The grants announced last week form a critical foundation for the Obama Administration's Opening Doors strategy, the nation's first comprehensive plan to prevent and end homelessness.

"There is a tremendous need on our streets and in our shelters among those experiencing both long-term homelessness as well as families confronting a sudden economic crisis," says HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "These grants are the life blood for thousands of local housing and service programs that are doing the heavy lifting to meet President Obama's goal of ending homelessness."

Last September, HUD announced that it would renew funding through HUD's Continuum of Care programs to existing local programs as quickly as possible to prevent any interruption in federal assistance. HUD will award funds to new projects later in the year.

HUD's Continuum of Care grants provide permanent and transitional housing to homeless persons as well as services including job training, health care, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and child care. Continuum of Care grants are awarded competitively to local programs to meet the needs of their homeless clients. These grants fund a wide variety of programs from street outreach and assessment programs to transitional and permanent housing for homeless persons and families.

Source: U.S. Housing and Urban Development
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Constellation Energy gives $1M to seed new BGE heating system replacement program

Constellation Energy has donated $1 million to the Baltimore Community Foundation to establish the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) Heating System Fund, which will provide new, energy efficient furnaces to qualifying limited-income customers in Baltimore in need of a heating system replacement.

"Constellation Energy is pleased to expand our partnership with the city of Baltimore and the Baltimore Community Foundation by helping working families in Baltimore make substantial improvements to their home heating systems,"  Mayo A. Shattuck III, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Constellation Energy says. "This program is designed to assist limited-income households that do not qualify for existing energy assistance programs but are nonetheless struggling to make ends meet during this severe economic downturn. For these families, a new, efficient furnace can mean lower bills during the winter heating season. We're proud to be working together with the city of Baltimore on a program that will make a real difference for limited-income families."

The BGE Heating System Fund, launched this month, provides furnace replacements to qualified households above income eligibility levels for state utility bill assistance grants. The eligible household income level will be set at the qualifying amount for the Maryland Weatherization Assistance Program.

"We know firsthand that old or inefficient heating systems are the single biggest contributor to excessive home energy usage and resulting high electric bills. We're grateful to Mayor Dixon and her administration's leadership, as well as the strong support of the Baltimore Community Foundation. Working together, we are confident that we'll have a real and meaningful impact on those who might otherwise not be able to avail themselves of safe and energy-efficient electricity use this coming heating season," Kenneth W. DeFontes Jr, president, BGE, says.

Source: Baltimore Community Foundation
Writer: Walaika Haskins

The Nine: Habitat for Humanity's block party

Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake (HHC) kicked off its largest project in Baltimore to date building nine homes for area residents. The nine modular (pre-fabricated) homes will occupy the 2400 block of Fayette Street, between N. Montford Avenue and N. Port Street.

"Building a community of Habitat families is what we seek to do. The empty lot gave us the opportunity to build with nine Habitat families right next to one another to help enhance the community on Fayette Street," says Mike Mitchell, HHC CEO.

It will take some 800 volunteers nine days to complete the new  two-story rowhomes. The speedy construction of these modular homes in Baltimore is a first for the nonprofit org, which helps provide affordable housing to low-income residents. The prefab housing costs the nonprofit some 25 percent less than building them the traditional way - from scratch. Volunteers that include Baltimore Gas & Electric and Constellation Energy employees will assist with and complete tasks including painting, fencing, siding, landscaping, carpentry, floor installation and other tasks.

Although the homes have been pre-fabricated in a factory, HHC was able to reclaim a lot that was pre-wired and with plumbing. There is a bus line right outside the door. And, the modular's are air-sealed which means no leaking of heat or air-conditioning

"They should be completed by early October. Then October 17, there will be a dedication ceremony and Rally Event at Patterson Park starting at 3:00 pm. The Rally will serve a dual purpose in formally announcing the merge of Arundel Habitat and Chesapeake Habitat to form Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake and the dedication of the nine new homes and the nine families receiving their keys to those homes," says Desiree Wingo, director of Community Engagement.

Once these homes have been completed, the organization has several other projects, though admittedly less ambitious, on its drawing board.

"One particular project starting around the first of the year is on Clay Street [in Annapolis] in a public housing complex. This housing complex has been demolished and will be re-built with 10-14 homes being built with Habitat volunteers and the future homeowners," explains Matt Metzger, construction director.

Source: Habitat for Humanity of the Cheasapeake
Writer: Walaika Haskins

$6M project to add five fields of dreams to Baltimore neighborhoods

Got a vacant lot of a certain size in your neighborhood? Then the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation may have designs on it. The organization, through its Swing for the Future project, plans to build multi-purpose, low maintenance Youth Development Parks in the city. The project, estimated at $6 million, will build state-of-the-art ballparks sporting artificial turf with a track and exercise stations, in five low-income neighborhoods throughout the city.

The first park will transform the unused property on the former Memorial Stadium site on 33rd Street. Foundation officials have joined with partners within the community to raise the $1.5 million needed to repurpose the vacant field. The Y of Central Maryland has teamed with the CRSF on the Stadium Place field. The Y will run the park which has been designed as a kid-scale replica of Memorial Stadium.

"The purpose is to give kids a safe and healthy place to interact and play. After we raise the mix of private and public funding, we will give the facility to a local community partner. We are using Baltimore as a model so we can take it to other cities and help kids all across country," says John Maroon, CRSF spokesman.

Early planning has already begun for a $1 million project in Park Heights near Pimlico Race Course. The partnership between CRSF, the Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore and the city's Department of Recreation will be completed in 2011.

Three other sites will be selected in East Baltimore, West Baltimore and one as-of-yet undecided location in the city. Community groups will operate the parks offering neighborhood kids the chance to play baseball, football and other sports as well as the CRSF's baseball-centric character development programs.

Depending on the organizations ability raise the needed funding for the parks, the goal is to open one park a year. So far, donations have raised roughly 50 percent of the $1.5 million needed to build and fund programming for the Stadium Place park.

Source: John Maroon, CRSF
Writer: Walaika Haskins

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