Community cen­ter reopens with big hopes

$6.5 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion partly funded by Kevin Plank, Un­der Ar­mour

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Lor­raine Mirabella lor­raine.mirabella@balt­

The un­mis­tak­able stamp of Un­der Ar­mour is on the more than $6.5 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion and ex­pan­sion of the UAHouse at Fayette, an East Bal­ti­more community cen­ter run by Liv­ing Class­rooms.

Its walls are filled with Un­der Ar­mour slo­gans such as “I Will” and “We are just get­ting started,” and it boasts a new gym­na­sium and en­closed turf field.

But as of­fi­cials of Un­der Ar­mour and Liv­ing Class­rooms wel­comed stu­dents, community mem­bers and elected of­fi­cials to the cen­ter’s re­open­ing Tues­day, they em­pha­sized that the UA House was de­signed to be about more than sports. It will of­fer community-based ed­u­ca­tion, job train­ing, and health and well­ness pro­grams to chil­dren and adults.

“It’s a multi­gen­er­a­tional ap­proach,” said James Piper Bond, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Liv­ing Class­rooms Foun­da­tion. “It is a very mul­ti­fac­eted ap­proach. Our job is to truly dis­rupt the cy­cle of poverty.”

The fa­cil­ity on East Fayette Street will serve as the hub of a half-dozen community cen­ters in the Bal­ti­more Tar­get In­vest­ment Zone, an ini­tia­tive to of­fer pro­grams and ser­vices to res­i­dents of some of East Bal­ti­more’s need­i­est neigh­bor­hoods, in­clud­ing the Perkins Homes, the Fayette Street cor­ri­dor and McElderry Park com­mu­ni­ties.

The 2.5-square-mile area of mostly poor neigh­bor­hoods is home to 35,000 peo­ple and 9,100 stu­dents in 18 schools, Bond said. Liv­ing Class­rooms now serves 2,000 peo­ple in the “in­vest­ment zone” area and aims to boost that to 9,000 even­tu­ally.

The cen­ter that Liv­ing Class­rooms had run for about seven years had be­come run-down be­fore Un­der Ar­mour CEO Kevin Plank of­fered to be­come its spon­sor about a year ago, Bond said.

Plank, who founded the Bal­ti­more­based ath­letic ap­parel com­pany and sits on Liv­ing Class­rooms’ board, do­nated $5 mil­lion through his pri­vate Cupid Foun­da­tion. Un­der Ar­mour gave $1.275 mil­lion to sup­port ac­tiv­i­ties at the cen­ter over sev­eral years. Other funds came from the Bal­ti­more Ravens, which do­nated $1 mil­lion for the build­ing and health and well­ness pro­gram­ming, and $500,000 mil­lion from the state. Other con­tri­bu­tions came from Clark Con­struc­tion, the Rip­ken Foun­da­tion, and Joseph and De­bra Wein­berg.

The pro­ject in­cluded a 10,000-square­foot ex­pan­sion and com­plete ren­o­va­tion.

The re­made 30,000-square-foot fa­cil­ity fea­tures a cov­ered turf field, a tu­tor­ing cen­ter, a work­force devel­op­ment and en­trepreneur­ship cen­ter, a dance and yoga stu­dio, a record­ing stu­dio and a neigh­bor­hood kitchen.

Ad­dress­ing the community mem­bers and stu­dents at the open­ing, Plank said he has watched as the num­ber of community cen­ters in Bal­ti­more fell from150 in 1990 to 42 now.

He likened the im­pact of the UA House to a start­ing a fire with a match and then throw­ing kerosene on it, say­ing he an­tic­i­pated 30 sim­i­lar cen­ters sprout­ing around the city.

“This one is meant to be a model,” Plank said. “This is not meant to be just one house. This has got to be a house that’s a lit­tle match, and all we need now is the kerosene. And the kerosene comes from the suc­cess and pride of the peo­ple in this room.

Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake, who joined fed­eral, state and city of­fi­cials at the open­ing, said the cen­ter would help city chil­dren reach their po­ten­tial.

Tyaonna Jones, 9, a fourth-grader at City Springs El­e­men­tary School, came to the open­ing with her mother to help demon­strate how she uses com­put­ers in the mu­sic stu­dio, where she at­tends afterschool classes ev­ery day.

She said she likes the class be­cause “you get to ex­press your feel­ings. You get to learn new things about your voice.”

The cen­ter’s di­rec­tor, Travis Street, said run­ning the cen­ter for Liv­ing Class­rooms lets him live out a life­long pas­sion “to do the work in our community, not to talk about the work, but to get up each and ev­ery day and help strengthen our community.”


Stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in a fit­ness ac­tiv­ity in the dance and yoga stu­dio at the ren­o­vated UA House at Fayette, run by Liv­ing Class­rooms. It of­fers community-based ed­u­ca­tion, job train­ing, and health and well­ness pro­grams to chil­dren and adults.

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