In February, we celebrated the announcement that Baltimore’s Hebrew Orphan Asylum received over $2.5 million in support from the Maryland Sustainable Communities Tax Credit program. In order to secure the claim to these tax credits, the Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation was required to pay a 3% fee – over $75,000 – which posed a tough challenge for a small non-profit. For the past several months, Dr. Gary Rodwell has worked with Baltimore Heritage and other partners to continue promoting interest in the project and identify partners who could provide the necessary funding. Thankfully, Coppin State University has stepped forward to pay the fee and secure the Hebrew Orphan Asylum’s claim to the state historic tax credits. With this support, the Coppin Heights CDC is in a strong position to continue planning and push forward with fundraising for the rehabilitation of the building.
The past few weeks have also marked the end of work by the Red Line Station Area Advisory Committees – groups of volunteer residents, business owners, and other stakeholder who collaborated with designers, planners, architects and land-use experts to bring their insight into the design and planning of the nineteen proposed Red Line stations. The Rosemont Station Area Advisory Committee produced a vision plan (find a PDF here) for the future of the Rosemont area that highlighted the importance of historic district designation for neighborhood revitalization, established the reuse of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum as a key goal and considered landmark designation for the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and other historic properties.
Baltimore Heritage is helping make this vision a reality by starting to prepare a historic district nomination for the neighborhoods of Greater Rosemont and by working with the Coppin Heights CDC towards the restoration and reuse of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. As we continue to strive for the revitalization of historic West Baltimore neighborhoods, we welcome any questions or suggestions.
We are very pleased to share the news that the Baltimore Hebrew Orphan Asylum has received over $2.5 million in support from the Maryland Sustainable Communities Tax Credit program. We are honored to have helped draft the tax credit application and to be one of the many partners working towards the building’s restoration. The state’s generous funding for the project is a major step forward in our efforts to see this building preserved and reused as an anchor for a revitalized Greater Rosemont community. We particularly appreciate the leadership of Coppin State University for their support of the tax credit application prepared by the Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation with assistance from Baltimore Heritage and Kann Partners. Working together we’ve established a vision for the future of this building that matches the key goals of the Sustainable Communities Tax Credit program: to promote revitalization, restore historic places, and advance Smart Growth and sustainability while creating jobs in communities across the state of Maryland.
Although the Hebrew Orphan Asylum is just one of of many projects receiving the tax credit across the State, this project received the largest allocation from the nearly $7 million in tax credits offered to projects across the state, including the Senator Theatre and Mount Vernon Mill No. 1 here in Baltimore. These funds will leverage additional public and private support as we work to help the Coppin Heights CDC raise the full amount required for a complete stabilization and rehabilitation of the building. With the building still in seriously distressed condition, these next steps are an urgent priority for Baltimore Heritage and the Friends of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum.
The Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation recently completed a new Hebrew Orphan Asylum Adaptive Reuse Study with support from Baltimore Heritage, Preservation Maryland, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This report (available for download here) evaluates the restoration of this rare 19th century purpose-built orphanage and explores opportunities to return the building to use as a center for health care and healthy living. This study is a step forward in our ongoing effort to preserve the Hebrew Orphan Asylum.
In partnership with Coppin State University, the Coppin Heights CDC’s plan calls for creating a healthy foods market and a community health center in the building. Not only would this use provide an essential service to a West Baltimore community with limited access to fresh food and healthcare, it would also continue a rich tradition of social service at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum that began nearly 140 years ago.
Despite this good news, serious concerns remain as the distressed condition of the building–highlighted by the collapse this past February–urgently demands the immediate development of a financing plan to support the building’s stabilization and rehabilitation. Financing for projects similar to the Asylum often comes from a wide range of sources: tax credits, private commercial loans, and private donors just to name a few. To support this effort, Baltimore Heritage and the Coppin Heights CDC worked together to submit an application to the the state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credit programs. If the application is successful, the state and federal tax credits could provide up to an estimated $4,000,000 for rehabilitation– a tremendous investment in the future of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and the neighborhoods of Greater Rosemont.
The past few months have seen both modest progress for our efforts to preserve and reuse Baltimore’s Hebrew Orphan Asylum and a setback to the condition of the building. On the afternoon of February 25, high winds combined with continued deterioration of the roof caused a significant collapse to the rear wall of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. The collapse dropped a large amount of brick and other debris into the lot behind the building. Fortunately, none of the residents or staff at the adjoining Tuerk House were injured and Coppin State University, with assistance from Brawner Contractor Inc., took quick action to erect a safety fence around the area. Coppin State University, in consultation with its contractor and structural engineers, has started the process of assessing the damages to the building and preparing plans for the design and reconstruction of the collapsed building elements. Additional photos of the building both before and after the recent collapse are available in the Friends of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum Flickr set.
Despite this new challenge, Baltimore Heritage and Coppin State University are continuing to move forward with planning, education and outreach efforts to ensure a vital future for this nationally important Baltimore building. With funding from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Maryland, the Coppin Heights CDC is working with development consultant Ms. Wendy Blair to prepare a feasibility study on the reuse of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. The study will explore a range of possible uses and include an opportunity this spring for area residents and others to share their own perspectives on the revitalization of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and the former Lutheran Hospital site. Baltimore Heritage is partnering with the Coppin Heights CDC to facilitate this public input process over the next few months.
Our continuing programs have expanded the Friends of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum Facebook page to over 100 supporters with hundreds more on our e-mail list. In early February, over 30 of you came out to the Pratt Library Edmondson Avenue Branch for our program on the past and future of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. In early March, we had the opportunity to share the story of the how Baltimore’s Jewish community established and built the orphanage with a group of Towson University students in Dr. Valerie Thaler’s American Jewish History class. Finally, Anita Kassof, Assistant Director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, highlighted the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in a recent article for “Generations,” the JMM’s annual magazine. The article tells the story of how the Hebrew Orphan Asylum offered a caring home for orphaned and destitute children under the leadership of Rabbi Samuel Freudenthal.
We’re are looking for more opportunities to share information on the rich history and exciting future of this great Baltimore landmark. Please invite us to come out and speak with your group or congregation this spring!