Bank of America donated a building in Brooklyn, located at 601 S. Hanover St. in southwest Baltimore, to the community on Monday, February 6, 2023. Bank of America, a leading financial institution, provided the donation to the Greater Baybrook Alliance (GBA) for the Baybrook Coalition, on behalf of the surrounding community.
“Our community had many organizations and local leaders engaged in the process of working with the bank to secure the donation. However, they felt GBA– as a community development corporation – had the appropriate capacity to steward the building,” said Meredith Chaiken, executive director of GBA.
She further explained that Baybrook Coalition is a loose coalition that is composed of local residents, businesses and community organizations. Members of the Baybrook Coalition include: GBA, Action Baybrook, City of Refuge Baltimore, Community of Curtis Bay Association, Concerned Citizens for a Better Brooklyn, Friends of Garrett Park, Grow Home Baltimore and Rehoboth Church of Deliverance, according to information that was released to the media.
“(GBA) is a non-profit community development organization whose mission is to act as a catalyst and conduit for equitable development and reinvestment in the Brooklyn, Brooklyn Park, Curtis Bay neighborhoods and empower its residents to strengthen the Baybrook community. This includes a wide range of community building, neighborhood revitalization, and issue advocacy leadership for the South Baltimore peninsula,” according to additional details.
Chaiken added that the approximately 3,500 square foot building will become GBA’s permanent office space. Retail space for an emerging local business will be included along with pairing with technical assistance programs for small businesses.
“GBA will lead in the redevelopment of the building and finding a tenant,” said Chaiken, also pointing out additional plans for the donated building. “Everyone in the community benefits from our neighborhood revitalization programs and initiatives, such as economic development, green space and public safety programs. In addition, our plans to support a new local business will generate jobs and local wealth in the community.”
Janet Currie, president of Bank of America Greater Maryland explained that the bank closed during the pandemic in 2020. Only the ATM in the parking lot remained utilized. The bank has not been used by anyone else since it closed.
Currie also said that the bank’s clients have been “migrating towards digital options.” The pandemic accelerated utilization of innovation. She provided an example of bank clients being able to bank through their mobile devices, instead of standing in line to complete tasks such as depositing checks.
Before Bank of America bought it, the building was used for a variety of uses. These include serving as a community meeting hall and space for social events, according to WBAL-TV. The loss of financial services was another topic of concern.
“Often, there’s a fear when a bank branch closes, the community’s going to lose — not only having an empty building, they’re also going to lose the financial services and investment in the community, Marceline White, executive director of Economic Action Maryland, said in WBAL’s report. “So, it’s a big deal when the bank says, ‘You know what? We’re leaving, but we’re not going far.’”
But Currie further noted that discussions with Baybrook Coalition included concerns being shared about how residents in the Brooklyn area would receive services after the Bank of America building closed.
“They had a vision to have the bank be donated, so that they could try to create something that would be a positive outcome for the community. It would be a place where the community could gather, potentially receive financial education services, homeowner education, small business, education, all of those kinds of things,” Currie said. “We decided that if they were willing to receive it, we were willing to donate it.”
Chaiken mentioned that the non-profit community development organization will not move into the space as their permanent office for another 18-24 months. However, GBA’s programs and initiatives are ongoing. Individuals who would like to learn more about the progress of future developments can stay informed through GBA.
“GBA’s Steering Committee meets bimonthly and will receive regular updates on the progress of the building. Our meetings are open to the public and all are encouraged to attend. We will also provide information in our newsletter and website www.greaterbaybrookalliance.org,” Chaiken said.