$5.4 million community center opening in Sandtown-Winchester

April 07, 2001|By Kimberly A. C. Wilson | Kimberly A. C. Wilson,SUN STAFF

A decade-long vision for an inner city Baltimore neighborhood will be realized today when Sandtown-Winchester residents dedicate a $5.4 million community center.

Mayor Martin O'Malley is expected to be on hand when residents get their first look at New Song Center, a 30,000-square-foot facility at 1501 N. Gilmor St. in West Baltimore.

A school, a health clinic, a jobs program, and offices for Sandtown Habitat for Humanity will share the space with two youth choirs.

Susan Tibbels, who with her husband Allan helped found New Song Urban Ministries, a nonprofit organization that helps coordinate the programs, said the center marks the realization of a dream.

"We're excited about it," Tibbels said. "It will be a big celebration."

The Tibbelses moved to the neighborhood 14 years ago, following the New Song Community Church into a community that had scores of boarded-up or uninhabitable houses.

The new community center, one of the neighborhood's largest buildings, stands three stories tall and was designed to blend into the streetscape of older brick rowhouses.

Features include a 350-seat auditorium, 10 classrooms, a parents' resource room, a school store, a greenhouse, and a science room with a wall of aquariums and terrariums for keeping fish, hamsters or snakes to study.

Funding for the center came from private groups, including the Abell Foundation, the Weinberg Foundation, the Rouse Company Foundation, and public agencies, including the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development.

New Song Urban Ministries raised more than $300,000 for the project -- half of which was contributed by Sandtown residents.

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