The former Bernard Hill clothing store at 10 Hopkins Plaza will be transformed by late October to the Downtown Baltimore Center, home of a new professional education program operated by a consortium of seven institutions in the University of Maryland system.
The center will be the second branch of an academic institution to open downtown in the past several years, joining the Johns Hopkins University's downtown center at Charles and Saratoga streets. The New Community College of Baltimore also has an Inner Harbor campus that opened in 1976.
Elizabeth DeBaugh Blake, director of the Downtown Baltimore Center and head of a new group called the University of Maryland System Consortium for Continuing Education, said that she has been looking for some time for a location where the consortium could offer courses to people who live and work downtown. When the "pavilion building" became available late last year, she decided it would be ideal.
"It was a highly visible location, and it gets a lot of walk-by traffic," she said. "We're very excited about it."
Many people who work in downtown Baltimore are not used to staying around after work, but Hopkins' program showed that people will make use of a downtown academic center, and the precedent it set "will make it easier for us," Ms. Blake said. "We're talking about changing people's habits."
The consortium is made up of Coppin State College, Towson State University, the University of Baltimore, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the University of Maryland at Baltimore, the University of Maryland-College Park and the University of Maryland's University College.
According to Ms. Blake, the seven institutions have never before worked together on a project such as this, but each will contribute faculty to the center and each sees this project as a possible model for future joint efforts.
The 4,700-square-foot center will have three classrooms, a computer lab, a conference room and office and reception space. Starting in October, it will offer non-credit courses or seminars during days and evenings.
Ms. Blake said that the program will expand eventually to include courses that can be taken for credit toward a degree. Classes will be held on Saturdays as well as on weekdays.
Initial course offerings reflect an emphasis on business management and other subjects that might appeal to people working downtown. Titles include "Effective Business Negotiating Skills," "Total Quality Management" and "Small Business Contract Maintenance and Company Survival." Course offerings will broaden in scope later, Ms. Blake said.
She said that she is happy that the project is finally going ahead despite the state's fiscal crunch. She said that she expects it to succeed because professional education is a growth area.
"Everybody has to continue to upgrade their skills, whether it's in the area of computers or interpersonal relations," she said. "Education is now a lifelong thing."
For information about the center, call 234-3944.