Plans for cultural center to be unveiled; Theater's transformation could help revitalize community, groups say


Highlandtown leaders will unveil plans today for the Patterson Theater, which they hope will become a cultural and artistic mecca for Southeast Baltimore.

The theater, closed since 1997, is part of the Highlandtown Revitalization effort designed to restore vacant and abandoned properties.

Block party

Plans for the theater to become the Patterson Cultural Center will be unveiled at 2 p.m. at "The Patterson's Big Block Party" from noon to 4 p.m. at East and Eastern avenues. The free block party will feature musical performances by the Broadway Choir, Mambo Combo and Gumbo Junkyard.

"Highlandtown has a very rich cultural diversity, and hopefully, that will be reflected in the center," said Ken Strong, executive director of Southeast Development Inc.

2001 opening

The interior of the two-story building at 3134 Eastern Ave. will be renovated to include a 150-seat theater, an indoor/outdoor cafe, a 3,000-square-foot art gallery, 11 studios for resident artists, and offices for the Fells Point Creative Alliance. Strong said the cultural center will open in early 2001.

The Alliance, an arts based nonprofit group, and Southeast Development Inc., a nonprofit community development corporation, have done most of the planning.

The renovations' cost is unclear; a figure will become available after the interior is gutted on Monday, Strong said.

Southeast Development will draw on several grants and loans for redevelopment in the area. Bank of America has contributed $500,000 in grants and loans, and Mercantile Bank has made a $500,000 loan. The state has contributed $1.6 million, Strong said.

Other local banks, including First Union, Crestar, Allfirst and Provident, have donated about $970,000 total to the project.

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