www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/north-baltimore/ph-ms-barclay-community-center-0516-20130514,0,6600393.story

baltimoresun.com

City's old Barclay rec center to reopen as privately run community center

Volunteers paint and clean aging building near public school

By Larry Perl, lperl@tribune.com

1:10 PM EDT, May 14, 2013

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The formerly city-owned Barclay Recreation Center will make its debut as a privately run community center May 18, serving the Charles Village area, including the Abell, Oakenshawe, Harwood and Old Goucher communities.

A grand opening celebration, possibly with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in attendance, is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the center, 2900 Barclay St., in the Charles Village area.

The Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks last year turned over the underutilized, 7,300-square-foot facility to the city public school next door, Barclay Elementary/Middle, to operate as a social and education center in a public-private partnership with the nonprofit Greater Homewood Community Corp.

"We're providing the programming, the staffing, the upkeep. They gave us the building," said Hannah Gardi, the center's director and a community builder for Greater Homewood.

Greater Homewood and the school have a temporary permit to open the center, while they negotiate a long-term memorandum of understanding with the city, said Hannah Gardi, the center director and a community builder for the Charles Village-based, nonprofit Greater Homewood, which serves as a community resource for 40 north and central Baltimore neighborhoods.

The school system would cover utilities and major capital costs, while the Barclay school and Greater Homewood would be responsible for maintenance.

The center is expected to offer free and fee-based classes and services ranging from a dance camp to job skills training and computer instruction.

A community advisory council is helping the partnership plan programming at the center for children, adults and seniors.

Late last week, Gardi's chin and clothes were dotted with paint as she and Greater Homewood's assistant director of neighborhood programs, John Bernet, rushed to get the aging, 7,800-square-foot center ready to reopen.

"Cleaning was a big process," Bernet said.

"We have painted every single surface," Gardi said. "We've put in a ton of staff hours. It's been a labor of love."

Volunteers — from Gilman School staff to the Barclay school's students— have worked Saturdays for the past six weeks, Gardi said.

Contributions of materials and money came from Home Depot, among other donors, Gardi said.

The two-story center includes a cavernous upstairs multi-purpose room that Greater Homewood can use when school is out. Downstairs is a kitchen, an office with all new glass, and an exercise room. Greater Homewood is seeking the donation of a stove and folding tables, Gardi said.

"It looks so much better than it did before," she said, noting that everything in the kitchen was a brownish color, until the staff painted it green. Ceiling tiles, many water-damaged, have been replaced, as were office windows.

Initial programming will include a Super Kids summer camp sponsored by the Parks and People Foundation based in Wyman Park, and the community council will help plan programming for the fall and beyond, Gardi and Bernet said. Greater Homewood also hopes to hold a basketball and a dance camp this summer, they said.

Greater Homewood hopes the building's new life as a community center will be uplifting for the area.

"This was a really important thing to do for Charles Village, Abell and Harwood," Bernet said.