Mount Vernon's New Kid


The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a 46-year-old charity with $1 billion in assets, moved to Baltimore late last month. But it has already made a mark on its new hometown through a spectacular modernization of a headquarters building it leases at St. Paul and Monument streets.

The foundation had that 29-year-old building at the eastern end of Mount Vernon Place thoroughly redesigned. Its exterior colors were changed from a drab dark brown to chocolate and cream, its street-level decorative arches were opened to make it more welcoming.

The real surprises, though, are inside the building, which once housed the old Regional Planning Council as well as the city's manpower offices. Much of the interior was demolished and replaced by a skylighted central atrium, which is surrounded by five floors of office and meeting spaces.

"Every office has a window. Regardless of where you stand in the building, you can see daylight," explains Dianne Rohrer, who is an interior designer with the local architectural firm of Cho, Wilks and Benn.

The Casey Foundation is guided by a belief that many more American youngsters should have the kind of healthy, safe and successful childhood that leads to a productive life as an adult. This year it expects to distribute an estimated $67 million to make that belief a reality.

When it decided to relocate to Baltimore from Greenwich, Conn. -- where it felt isolated -- the foundation surveyed its 53 employees on what things in a work environment were important. Having been scattered in three different sections of an office building in Connecticut, they wanted better inter-office communication here. The new building clearly has succeeded in providing that.

The Casey Foundation is not keen on seeking publicity, feeling the spotlight ought to be on the many needs of children. But as the foundation now begins introducing itself to Baltimore, it has a splendid calling card in its new headquarters.

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