Earlier this year we celebrated the first year of Ours To Own Baltimore, an investment initiative created to engage local communities to invest in the social and economic development of their city.
Calvert Foundation has been working in partnership with Humanim and Invested Impact to grow this movement, which has to date garnered over $5 million in investments from local individual and institutional investors.
Last week we made a trip around Baltimore to see these investments in action. We were joined by financial advisors, investors, foundations, and leaders in the Baltimore impact space.
The tour kicked off at Humanim headquarters, located in the now-restored American Brewery building in East Baltimore. Humanim works to serve members of the Baltimore community who face barriers in employment by creating economic opportunities through social enterprises and other services
City Seeds is one of the social enterprises launched by Humanim that provides catering services and job opportunities in the culinary field. City Seeds works in close partnership with Humanim’s School of Food, a year-long educational curriculum designed to help food entrepreneurs with all aspects of building and growing their businesses.
Acknowledging the impact of City Seeds and the School of Food in the community, Cindy Plavier-Truitt, Humanim’s Chief Business Officer, exclaimed that Humanim’s work is beyond job training — it is about “ecosystem development” and creating a support system for small businesses to develop in Baltimore. City Seeds and the School of Food provide two key elements — job training and job creation.
Our tour group sampled food from the City Seeds catering service, as well as from School of Food alumnus Eula McDowell, owner of The Big Bean Theory restaurant and catering service and Juan Nance, owner of Healthy People Juice company, both based in Baltimore.
Our second stop was City Arts in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, a combination of mixed-income and affordable housing units and community arts space constructed with artists in mind. The City Arts I development is a $13 million project which includes 69 new and rehabbed units in the 400 block of East Oliver Street in Baltimore’s Greenmount West neighborhood. Several blocks north is City Arts II, which offers an additional 60 units of artist housing.
Kathy Ebner, President and CEO of Annapolis, MD based Homes for America, emphasized that City Arts was constructed largely in part due to the demands of Baltimoreans themselves — when surveyed, artists resoundingly wanted to see affordable housing that met their needs in the Station North area. The demand is there: both properties have a waiting list, and City Arts 2 reached full occupancy within six months of opening.
Our third and fourth stops were to the Impact Hub Baltimore and the new Parkway Theatre. Impact Hub Baltimore opened in the fall of 2014, and offers 8600 square feet of incubator space for social enterprises in Baltimore as well as 15 offices on the ground floor of the Center Theatre on North Avenue. Impact Hub also acts as the headquarters for Invested Impact, an Ours To Own partner.
Rodney Foxworth, the CEO of Invested Impact and one of the co-founders of Impact Hub Baltimore, explained that the Hub has been so successful as an incubation space that several organizations have grown so rapidly that they can no longer fit in the space.
The new Parkway Theatre, across the street from the Impact Hub, opened just three months ago and turned a new page in its 102-year history. The theater, built in 1915, had been vacant since 1998, and underwent an $18.2 million renovation, and reopened to the public this May. The Parkway is the permanent home of the Maryland Film Festival, as well as a classroom for Johns Hopkins University and the MICA’s film programs by allowing them to study the production of filmmaking and documentation.
Our fifth stop was on West Baltimore Street, led by the Southwest Partnership, a coalition of seven neighborhood associations and six anchor institutions with a presence in those neighborhoods. Over 1,000 Baltimoreans were engaged in grassroots efforts to create a community development plan to combat the over-concentration of drug treatment facilities in their neighborhoods, which transitioned into the Southwest Partnership.
We checked out 1518 W Baltimore Street, the site of the old Capitol Theatre. Baltimore Community Lending provided an acquisition loan to the Southwest Partnership so they could preserve this critical community real estate for future development. Michael Seipp of the Southwest Partnership emphasized that the goal of the community development plan is to protect the residents that call southwest Baltimore home, while attracting new residents to breathe new life into the neighborhoods’ core commercial corridors.
From West Baltimore we made our way over to Remington Row, a mixed-use development project with 108 units of housing, a portion of which is reserved for low-income residents. There is also 15,000 square feet of street level retail, and 30,000 square feet of office space occupied by Johns Hopkins Community Physicians
Sixty years ago, the site of Remington Row was a booming industrial zone. In the years that followed, the neighborhood declined. This retail development brings long-requested amenities such as dry cleaners, pharmacies, and doctors offices to the Remington neighborhood. Rents are competitively priced, and the building is LEED-silver certified, or a “green construction” that was built with sustainability in mind.
Remington Row is a project of Calvert Foundation borrower Seawall Development Company. Thibault Manekin, co-founder of Seawall Development Company, explained that their goal with Remington Row was be responsive and inclusive of local resident needs to change the dynamics of a previously forgotten neighborhood.
We ended the day with how we started — at a Humanim social enterprise. This time, it was Brick + Board, the sister outfit of Humanim’s Details deconstruction business. Brick + Board converts materials from the deconstruction of locally abandoned homes and buildings into usable products for new construction efforts and homeware. Their work not only reuses and recycles Baltimore materials but also offers quality jobs to local Baltimoreans.
We would like to thank our guests for joining us on this tour, and our partners on this tour — Humanim, Invested Impact, Baltimore Community Lending, and The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers — for helping to coordinate a great event. To invest in Baltimore, visit invest.calvertfoundation.org/
It was inspiring to see the power of investment capital come to life in the city of Baltimore — whether that be in the delicious food being made by growing social enterprises, in the increase in quality jobs in the city, or in the families living in housing that is both safe and affordable. The work that we do at Calvert Foundation and the work of our peers demonstrates how capital can be channeled to those who need it the most.