Monday, June 10 was an exciting day at the Hoen Lithograph Building in East Baltimore. The former industrial complex that will serve as Strong City’s future home was packed with developers, nonprofit workers, and community leaders to celebrate an infusion of $1.6 million in federal funds to help complete the project. The U.S. Economic Development Administration grant to provide adequate water, storm, and sanitary sewer infrastructure will be matched with $1.1 million from Baltimore City’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
Mayor Jack Young recalled growing up near the Hoen Building when it was “bustling with workers” before closing nearly 40 years ago. “This is going to be a real community hub here in East Baltimore, and it’s vitally needed,” the mayor said.
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen praised the project as an exemplary public-private partnership, with investments from the city, state, and federal governments. “Karen Stokes and her team are going to help make sure this is a center of new activity for this neighborhood,” Van Hollen said. “We want to bring entrepreneurs back here, investors, and community leaders. We have all the ingredients to make this a successful enterprise for East Baltimore.”
Lifelong Collington Square resident Ella Durant, who heads the local neighborhood association and also sits on Strong City’s Board, noted that the nonprofits Strong City and City Life Community Builders have been careful to put the concerns and needs of residents first. “They did not come into this neighborhood to tell us what to do,” Durant said. “They came and asked us what we needed and told us what they could do.”
“This is a really amazing project for us,” said Strong City CEO Karen D. Stokes. “Strong City is delighted to be part of this beautiful building. But this project will not be successful if it’s just a building. We work on community organizing and civic engagement. We’re creating a Center for Neighborhood Innovation here. That’s about transforming a neighborhood, but it’s also about transforming lives. I’m so excited that on January 2, we will be open for business.”
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce John Fleming brought “greetings from the Trump administration” and announced the grant of $1.6 million to the Hoen project from the Economic Development Administration. “We’re excited to be here, and you should be very proud of what’s going on here,” Fleming said. “We look forward to partnering with you in the future.”
When the renovation is completed, the complex will open as the Center for Neighborhood Innovation, with Strong City as the anchor tenant. Associated Builders and Contractors-Baltimore will establish its Construction Training Academy in one of the complex’s former warehouses, which Bill Struever of Cross Street Partners said will be “the largest concentration of building trades apprenticeship programs in Maryland.” Cross Street Partners and City Life Community Builders will also occupy the complex, along with other tenants. Strong City is in a long-term arrangement to eventually become the building’s owner.
ALL PHOTOS BY DAVE MCINTOSH PHOTOGRAPHICS