Teen center finds home on Eastern Avenue; Old beauty school part of area renewal


For two years, Baltimore's Southeast Teen Center has leased space from a church and floated between a community center and a recreation facility while searching for a permanent home.

Its patience has paid off. The center, which provides leadership training to young people, is moving next month into the old beauty school at Eastern Avenue and Clinton Street.

"It's a wonderful complement to the commercial revitalization of Highlandtown," said Kenneth Strong, executive director of Southeast Development Inc.

The beauty school is one of four "anchor" buildings to be renovated as part of an overall Highlandtown renewal project. SDI and several community organizations have led the effort in the Southeast Baltimore neighborhood.

The plan is to convert the old Irvins Department Store into offices, renovate Grand Theater, and turn Patterson Theater into a cultural center. The Patterson Theater conversion is slated to begin next month but it is not clear when the other projects will start.

Charlene Ndi, executive director of the teen center, said her group should move into its new space by mid-March. The beauty school building, purchased with a $225,000 community development block grant, will undergo between $300,000 and $500,000 in renovations.

With leadership training services, which range from camping trips to tutoring at local elementary schools, Ndi said the center also is considering opening a small teen-operated business, perhaps a restaurant or youth-oriented store.

Samantha Brown, 15, who has been involved with the center for three years, said running a business would give her valuable work skills while providing a service to the community. She's not sure what kind of business would be the most fun.

"I can do something positive for myself and the community," said Brown, one of 120 teen-agers who participate in programs at the center.

The idea for the teen center, which will become Southeast Teen Academy when it moves to Eastern Avenue, stemmed from a neighborhood survey of available services in Southeast Baltimore, said Sister Barbara Ann English of Julie Community Center.

"We did a survey of who got served and found that there were 8,000 teen-agers with no services," English said. "There might be the occasional thing, like basketball or other extracurricular activities, but there was nowhere in the community that was dedicated to the teen-agers."

The center began in February 1997, on the top floor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary School. It closed operations at St. Elizabeth last week and has been using space at the Julie Center and at the recreation center at Patterson Park.

"We never missed a beat during this move," English said. "All programs have gone on full steam ahead."

Pub Date: 2/19/99

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