Community center's opening viewed as sign of progress

Section of E. Baltimore being redeveloped around biotech park

October 07, 2003|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

The opening of a newly renovated Community Resource Center yesterday was hailed by officials as another sign of progress in the redevelopment of a dilapidated area of East Baltimore centered on a biotech park north of the Johns Hopkins medical complex.

"Look at how far we've come in a short period of time," Mayor Martin O'Malley said before a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the center at 1731 E. Chase St. "We are a long way from being done, but we are getting there. This is happening. It is going to be big."

The center, in a converted schoolhouse, will offer relocation and family advocacy services for residents, and will house the administrative offices of East Baltimore Development Inc., the nonprofit agency set up to oversee the redevelopment.

The first in a series of informational meetings on relocation assistance for residents who will be displaced by the project was planned for after the ceremony.

Over the past several months, a chief executive officer has been hired to head the project; a $21.2 million federal loan has been secured to help pay for its initial phase; and the city has slowly begun to acquire properties.

The project, first outlined nearly three years ago, will cost $800 million in private and public funds, and could take a decade or more to complete.

Officials say it could generate as many as 8,000 jobs, about a third of which would be available to high school graduates, and transform an area that has been beset by decades of disinvestment.

Lisa Williams, president of the Save Middle East Action Committee, said residents are "looking forward to the opportunities" of jobs and new housing. The Middle East neighborhood is in the heart of the redevelopment effort, but several other east-side communities will be affected.

"This resource center is great for this community," said Williams. "There are a lot of questions people have."

Douglas W. Nelson, president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and a member of the East Baltimore Development board, said the opening of the resource center is an "important step" toward seeing that residents benefit from the redevelopment.

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