MOST OF Baltimore's historic Seton Institute was torn down years ago to make way for a business park, but a remnant of it has just reopened for a new use.
An old gymnasium that was added in the 1960s to the institute - a hospital run by the Sisters of Charity - has been recycled as part of a $2.9 million employment center for the Baltimore Association for Retarded Citizens (BARC).
Representatives from the nonprofit agency joined state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, former Baltimore County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen and other dignitaries this month to dedicate the center, which occupies an 8-acre parcel in the Seton Business Park.
Located at 6151 Metro Drive, the employment center houses the Janitorial and Landscape Services Division of BARC's Supported Employment Program, one of the nation's largest providers of jobs to people with mental retardation.
BARC provides janitorial and landscape services valued at $4.5 million a year for organizations such as the Johns Hopkins Health System, the American Visionary Art Museum, the Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the Social Security Administration.
The employment center was designed to enable BARC to consolidate its janitorial and landscape operations in one centralized staging area. Before, BARC worked out of four separate locations spread throughout the region.
The largest component of the 28,000-square-foot facility is the gym, which has been converted to a two-story office and conference center called the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building. It was named in honor of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, which gave $225,000 to help fund the project.
A second building was constructed next to the former gym to house a maintenance shop and equipment repair facility. There is also a storage area and fueling facility for trucks and equipment used by BARC's Landscape Division. Hogg Construction of Towson and Notari Associates of Baltimore were hired to design and build the facility.
The center enables BARC to create more employment and educational opportunities for more than 480 people who participate in its janitorial and landscape services program, according to Stephen H. Morgan, the association's executive director.
The gymnasium dated from the 1960s and was one of the last structures built by Seton Institute, said Douglas S. Turner, vice president of Hogg Construction.
"It was still a usable building - masonry construction with a 22-foot roofline," Turner said. "It had a grandstand on one side. We slipped in a second floor and cut window openings to make it a two-story building. It's one of those projects you feel good about - being able to retrofit an otherwise useless building and make it useful again."
BARC celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. It is Maryland's largest private, nonprofit organization providing programs and services to people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities.
BARC offers its services to more than 2,000 residents of Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
Pride in Place award winners
Four building projects received "Pride in Place" honors from the Maryland Downtown Development Association during its annual awards ceremony this week.
Winners in the "White Elephant" category were: Icon Investments, for rehabilitating a dilapidated building at 500 to 504 Warren St. in Havre de Grace; Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake, for creating a career center and corporate headquarters at 222 E. Redwood St. in Baltimore; the City of Frederick, for replacing the faM-gade of a building at 615 N. Market St. to improve its appearance; and the East New Market Town Commission, for transforming East New Market's old high school to housing for seniors.