Vacant building has future as vital community center Church and neighborhood launch renovation project


The hulking empty apartment building at West Madison Avenue and Wilson Street was just another blemish on a neighborhood troubled by drug dealing and vandalism, but yesterday 200 community members celebrated a new plan for the five-story brick building.

With the help of state and local money and private contributions, the building in the city's Madison Park area will become a community center next summer with day care for elderly adults and children, a job development program, adult education courses, and kitchen and banquet facilities.

The neighborhood center is the latest project of Payne Memorial Outreach, a nonprofit affiliate of the Payne Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church, which has a history of outreach and missionary programs in the community.

The $2.6 million redevelopment costs are being funded by $500,000 from a state bond bill, $272,000 from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, $540,000 in donations and pledges from individuals, churches and businesses and $500,000 from a Baltimore City Community Block Grant. A $100,000 grant is pending in Congress.

"The church of the 21st century must strive to be an equal partner at the table of community development, bringing both vision and resources to address the critical issues facing our neighborhoods and cities," said the Rev. Vashti M. McKenzie, chairwoman of Payne Memorial Outreach.

Payne Memorial Outreach purchased the vacant building 18 months ago with the goal of converting it into a facility that would provide comprehensive services to a diverse population. The agency has spent the past year raising money toward that goal.

In addition to about 200 members of the congregation and community, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman attended yesterday's celebration kicking off the renovation project.

Payne Memorial Outreach sponsors a number of initiatives, including a summer youth camp, after-school scouting and science programs, senior activities, health screenings, adult education and welfare-to-work programs.

"We in the faith community cannot complacently stay within our church walls," McKenzie said. "We must aggressively pursue proactive initiatives which sometimes require that we venture into areas not usually considered to be the regular place of the church."

Pub Date: 6/29/98

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