City approves lease of senior center to LGBT group

Baltimore’s spending panel approved a lease agreement Wednesday for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore to take over the now-empty third floor of the Waxter Center.

The lease was protested by about two dozen seniors from the Waxter Center who said they were worried about teenagers causing problems for them and poor conditions at the facility.

"Usually teenagers and older people don’t get along too well," said Lester Buster, president of the senior center's advisory council. Buster said the building is in shabby condition and until recently had no doors on its bathrooms.

City officials said the gay and lesbian center, or GLCCB, would not be in the senior center at the same time as the seniors. They also promised more than $1 million of repair work at the facility.

Steve Sharkey, the city's director of General Services, said the city will spend more than $1 million to repair the facility's elevator, renovate the bathrooms and the gym, and reopen the pool in the next year.

“We still have to do better about daily and weekly and monthly maintenance," he said.

Under the proposed lease, the GLCCB would pay the city about $2,522 per month for the first year, for an annual total of about $30,268. The senior center is located at 1000 Cathedral Street.

The GLCCB sold its own building, at 241 West Chase St., in May for $235,000. The center has been located in that building since 1980.

City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said he wanted Sharkey to report back to the board in the progress of the renovations.

"I've been getting complaints about the condition of the Waxter Center for over two years," he said.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake apologized to the seniors for a lack of communication from the city. She said "more outreach" should have been done.  Rawlings-Blake said the building have fallen into disrepair because of "budget shortfalls."

"We need to do better," she said. "Our commitment to the Waxter Center is to do better."

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