Banner Neighborhoods, a 30-year-old community development organization that serves 10 Patterson Park-area neighborhoods, is now raising funds to renovate a building it purchased early this year.
The 3,000-square-foot Formstone-covered structure, located behind Banner’s current home at 2900 E. Fayette, was in commercial foreclosure when Banner purchased it outright in January, says Joe Silhavy, president of Banner’s board of directors.
The building, located at 2911 Pulaski Highway, will be Banner’s new permanent home and will function as headquarters and a community center.
Banner Neighborhoods, which serves a large swath of east Baltimore—from Monument St. to Eastern Ave. and Haven St. to Washington St.—has several objectives, including greening, beautification, community empowerment, and youth employment.
The 3,000 square feet will give the organization more room for the numerous programs it sponsors (art clubs, youth sports, youth gardens, youth employment, senior home maintenance), and its newest program, a bike club, as well as allow for future growth.
“We’ll need anywhere between $200,000 and $250,000 to renovate the building,” says Silhavy, a senior vice president with Wells Fargo Bank, who has been involved with Banner since the 1980s.
“A key feature of the renovation, and one of the most expensive,” notes Silhavy, “is installing a wheelchair lift.”
Grant Corley, a Banner board member and Patterson Park resident, says the renovation will also address various issues, including water remediation and making the building fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and will include building offices upstairs and planting a substantial garden in the rear.
“The building will allow for our future programming needs,” Corley says.
Silhavy notes that Banner has evolved over the years from its earliest mission of helping the elderly age in place.
“We still help the elderly stay in their homes, but we also focus on improving quality of life and improving the neighborhoods so that all residents want to stay,” Silhavy says. “I’d say these days, we’re like a Swiss Army knife: all utility. We have something for everyone.”
Banner will be staying in its current headquarters for at least one more year, and the timeline for renovating is fairly loose, according to Silhavy.
“We’re not borrowing money for this project,” he says.
The organization plans to host a major fundraising kick-off later this summer, he adds.
Leanna Wetmore, Banner’s community organizer, says the new building has great potential for the organization and its future work.
She views the building’s artificial masonry not as an aesthetic challenge, but a unique Baltimore feature.
“We hope to paint a mural on the Formstone,” she says.
Banner was a key partner in the painting of many the murals in the neighborhood, most recently the native sea creature murals on Fayette St. and East Ave.
Wetmore says she doesn’t have any idea what the mural will look like.
“Whatever it is, it will be inspirational, it will involve lots of community input, and of course, will make the neighborhood more beautiful,” she says.
by Danielle Sweeney