After more than 30 years, the brick-and-mortar heart of Baltimore's gay activism and support network is moving.
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore, or GLCCB, announced Friday that it will depart its longtime West Chase Street headquarters for new space in the city-owned Waxter Center.
Matt Thorn, the GLCCB's executive director, said he is excited for the organization's next chapter, partnering with the city on new programs and taking advantage of being in the same building as the Waxter Center for Senior Citizens.
"It's in our strategic plan that we want to expand programming and services to LGBT seniors," he said.
Seniors, he said, have been "left out to a degree during the marriage equality movement and the LGBT rights movement."
The Waxter Center, at 1000 Cathedral Street, is less than a quarter of a mile from 241 W. Chase Street, where the GLCCB has been located since 1980. It is technically in the southern corner of the city's Mid-Town Belvedere community, but is within throwing distance of the gay cultural hub of Mount Vernon.
Thorn said he wants the new center to "really have that sense of community, real community, and have that blend of everything that's going on in Mount Vernon."
The GLCCB sold its West Chase Street building in May for $235,000, and announced in June that it had made the decision to "address ongoing community concerns with the inadequacy of the GLCCB's present space."
One concern was that the current center does not comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. It has no elevator despite much of its meeting space being located on upper levels.
Thorn said all told, the West Chase Street building needs about $900,000 in upgrades, an investment the GLCCB is not in a position to make. It's yearly operating budget is about $400,000.
Instead, following the sale of its building, the GLCCB began looking for new space, and in late summer began negotiating with city officials on a lease in the Waxter Center, where the GLCCB has held events in the past.
The new space, about 4,700 square feet on the third floor of the Waxter Center, is accessible by elevator. The square footage is comparable to what the GLCCB is using in the W. Chase Street building.
The Board of Estimates will consider the proposed lease agreement on Feb. 5, Thorn said. He and city officials said they could not disclose the details of the lease until Monday, when the Board of Estimates will post online its agenda for the meeting, including financial considerations to be made.
Thorn said the Waxter Center lease will serve the GLCCB well. Still, owning the W. Chase Street location had long given the gay community a home away from home, and the GLCCB will continue to consider its physical presence in years to come.
"It's something in the back of our heads, something we want to strive for: a space of our own, a building of our own, to reconstitute what 241 W. Chase Street was for us for so long," he said. "But that's obviously down the road."
Caron A. Brace, a spokesperson for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the administration "has worked in close partnership with GLCCB leadership to ensure a seamless transition." Brace added, "Deputy Chief of Operations Khalil Zaied and Director of the Department of General Services Steve Sharkey have both been actively engaged in the entire process. Additionally, the Mayor's LGBT Coordinator Demetrius Mallisham has served as a liaison to GLCCB representatives and members."
The GLCCB will continue its scheduled programming at the West Chase Street location through Feb. 9. Meetings will begin at the Waxter Center on Feb. 10, it said.
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun