Baltimore Unity Hall

Commercial, Historic, Non Profit, Historic, Sustainable

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A former union hall left vacant in Baltimore’s historic Bolton Hill neighborhood is repositioned to serve as a center for community arts, education, and workforce development. 

Built in 1964 as the Union Hall for the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union, the 30,000-sf building had declined due to deferred maintenance and was a blight to the neighborhood. The redevelopment creates a new community asset with office and program space for nonprofits and community-based organizations, artist studios, co-working space, exhibition space, and shared amenities including a break room, lounge, conference room, showers, wellness room, and a theater. A new commercial kitchen and large meeting room supports job training for catering and events operation and provides a gathering space for the community. 

The design approach reinvigorates the 1960s building with a new curtainwall and architectural fins that create a movement of light and shadow across the front of the building and reflect the warmth of the adjacent brownstones. New window openings and skylights are strategically placed to provide generous natural light within the interior spaces and clarify the circulation within the building’s internal reorganization. Polished concrete floors and steel structure are exposed, providing a simple background for bold, colorful accents that communicate the activity throughout and strengthen the identity for the building. New building systems, improvements to the envelope, and infrastructure for solar PVs contribute to a sustainable, energy-efficient facility with reduced cost of operations. 

The transformative redevelopment for the community is the result of a partnership between Somerset Development Company, a socially responsible real estate development company, and Memorial Apartments Corporation, a neighborhood nonprofit. Extensive community engagement and stakeholder sessions informed design for a very flexible building that can support small community-focused organizations and a Workforce Development Center that provides job training to community residents seeking employment. Through partnerships and programming, the Unity Hall is a gathering place for the community to come together through music, art, and job training and provide a venue for community dialogue between police and community members.

Facts

Design Team: Douglas Bothner; Ann Powell; Kelly Danz; Kyle Mastalinski; Travis Akiwowo

Owner: Baltimore Unity HallSomerset Development Company; Memorial Apartments Corporation

Completion: 6/2022

Area: 30,000 sf

Cost: $6 million