DONATE TO OUR BUILDING FUND
We are currently fundraising for the costs associated with renovating both VOLAR buildings, including $280,000 for architectural fees. This Juneteenth 2021 we are asking our friends, supporters, and co-conspirators to either become a monthly sustainer or to make a one time donation to support our efforts to bring about Black healing and self-determination, and community control of land and housing in East Baltimore. Read our building story below.
Our Building Story
On Tuesday, November 24th 2020 we finalized our purchase of two buildings that sit at 1025 and 1031 East Monument Street, formerly the sanctuary and rectory buildings of the Centennial UMC. We are excited to bring renewed community life to these 100+ year-old buildings located at the corner Ensor and East Monument Streets.
Image Caption: On November 24th 2020 the VOLAR team closed on the East Monument Street buildings. On November 24th and 25th we had an online and an in-person socially distanced celebrations with local residents and some of our comrades from the Black Yield Institute.
Check out our Spotify Playlist from our online celebration.
These buildings are the future sites of the VOLAR community hub and affordable housing cooperative/intentional community. The VOLAR hub will include our community wellness center, small business incubator, an industrial size kitchen, affordable daycare center, organizing school, community meeting spaces, and offices for local grassroots organizations. The housing cooperative will provide access to affordable housing, the opportunity to co-own the building, and the chance to live in an intentional healing community.
Image Caption: The Neighborhood Design Center created these preliminary concept and schematic design plans for the hub and affordable housing cooperative/intentional healing community. This is a birds-eye view of the VOLAR hub and cooperative housing/intentional healing building (above).
Image Caption: The building on the right is the future hub and the building to the left is the future affordable housing cooperative/intentional healing community (above).
Video Caption: Check out this "before-the-renovation" tour of the VOLAR buildings (above).
The creation of the VOLAR hub and housing cooperative represent one key step in bringing about community control of land and housing for and by low-income Black residents of East Baltimore. Through Black-led organizing, community development, and community investment we’re working to fundamentally address historic and ongoing processes of inequitable development, displacement of historic residents, public-private disinvestment from low-income Black communities, and inequitable distribution of wealth and power in East Baltimore.
Our efforts to buy and rehabilitate these buildings, for community use, have been difficult in a city where white developers, institutions, and their allies both lead and profit from uneven development and gentrification. Even being recognized as a viable buyer and developer to those institutional and political gatekeepers in the area has been a great challenge. For instance, our attempt to acquire the buildings, from the United Methodist Church, was met with great resistance and suspicion despite having the money (from private donations) to purchase the buildings. It wasn’t until our online petition with over 2,100 signatures (December 2019) and a meeting with board members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the UMC (January 2020) that we were respected as a credible buyer and could purchase the properties.
Image Caption: Click here to check out our original petition addressed to the Board of Trustees of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. This petition helped to demonstrate our community support to church leaders (above).
Phase 1 of the VOLAR rehab project is focused primarily on transforming the former rectory (1031 Monument) into an affordable housing cooperative and intentional living community. In 2020 VOLAR Building Sub-committee hired a project manager who helped with the original acquisitions of the East Monument buildings. We also worked with the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) in 2020 to make our collective vision become a reality. Staff at NDC have provided us with preliminary concept and schematic designs of the building, on which the newly hired architect will expand.
Image Caption: The Neighborhood Design Center created these preliminary concept and schematic design plans for our outdoor green spaces (above).
Image Caption: The Neighborhood Design Center created these preliminary concept and schematic design plans for the affordable housing cooperative/intentional healing community. The transformation of the former church rectory is a part of Phase 1 of our renovation plan (above).
Image Caption: The Neighborhood Design Center created these preliminary concept and schematic design plans for the hub (above).
So far in 2021 the Building Sub-committee has been working hard, with our project manager, to hire an architect, meet with the city zoning commission and to find an insurer for the building. Now the VOLAR team is supporting the architect and engineering team to do adequate assessments of the building. In the effort to do development differently we have prioritized the joy of working with Black contractors and professionals who understand the mission and vision of VOLAR to build the power and leadership and redistribute wealth to low-income Black residents in East Baltimore. This has proven to be a challenge because of the monopoly that white companies and institutions have on the insurance, architectural, real-estate, building industries. We will be hiring a new project manager soon. If you or someone you know would like to put in a bid for our RFQ please get in touch with the Building Sub-committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are currently fundraising for the costs associated with renovating both buildings which include $280,000 for architectural fees. This Juneteenth 2021 we are asking our friends, supporters, and co-conspirators to either become a monthly sustainer or to make a one time donation to support our efforts to bring about Black healing and self-determination, and community control of land and housing in East Baltimore. Click here to donate.