Jewish headquarters' expansion termed commitment to Baltimore

Ceremony marks The Associated's upgraded facility

June 14, 2000|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

One of Maryland's largest Jewish charitable organizations has almost doubled the size of its headquarters, building a bright and airy monument to giving across from Baltimore's Lyric Opera House.

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore held an opening ceremony yesterday for the $3.5 million expansion of its 20-year offices at 101 W. Mount Royal Ave.

"This building is a major statement that The Associated is going to be a major participant in the future of Baltimore," said Darrell D. Friedman, president of the 80-year-old nonprofit organization.

The group donates about $30 million a year for educational and charitable programs in the Baltimore area and worldwide, helping the poor and elderly, providing counseling for families in crisis, running community centers, providing job training and other services.

The construction of the 13,500-square-foot addition means that the organization will not move outside the city to make room for its growing staff, which has doubled to 80 people since 1980.

Relocating to the suburbs was discussed a few years back when the group realized it needed more space. City officials helped keep it in the area by signing an agreement last year that allows The Associated to share a parking garage with the Lyric Opera House, officials said.

"I guess this building means you will stick around for a while, which is great news for Baltimore," Mayor Martin O'Malley told the roughly 200 guests at a 3 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday. "This building is a symbol of the city's renewal."

The Associated had a headquarters on Monument Street in downtown Baltimore from 1920 until 1980, when it expanded into a blocky, contemporary brick office building on Mount Royal Avenue.

The old Mt. Royal offices had a bland entryway. But the new Associated Krieger Building, designed by architect Lee Coplan, welcomes visitors through a two-story, glass and rosewood hall that has writings from Jewish religious texts on the walls.

One passage in gold script on a glass plate immediately to the right of the door when a visitor enters reads: "Saving a single life is considered equivalent to saving an entire world."

Another reads: "Just as an olive tree does not lose its foliage in summer or winter, so Israel will never be lost, here or hereafter."

Through 20-foot-tall windows, visitors to the entry hall can see the Lyric, the University of Baltimore and the bustle of Mount Royal Avenue.

Howard Cohen, a vice chairman of the organization, said the bright, open feeling of the building has a symbolic meaning.

"We've taken a philosophical turn to open up more to the community and make the community feel welcome here," said Cohen.

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