A Place Like Home

A new community center opens in East Baltimore.

By Lydia Woolever - February 2017

A Place Like Home

A new community center opens in East Baltimore.

By Lydia Woolever - February 2017

Travis Street, second from left, and James Piper Bond, far right, at the UA House at Fayette. -Photography by Mitro Hood

Growing up in the public housing development Perkins Homes, Travis Street saw firsthand the importance of community centers in Baltimore City. “Once ours closed, I started to notice a lot of my peers getting into trouble, using drugs, selling drugs, going to jail,” he says. “And our communities were divided.”

As their numbers have dwindled from 150 in 1990 to a mere 42 today, the lack of community centers in Baltimore’s underserved neighborhoods has become a critical component in conversations about the city, an issue underscored by the 2015 uprising after the death of Freddie Gray.

But beside the heavy traffic of Fayette Street stands a bright blue beacon of hope for East Baltimore and the city as a whole. Here, Street now serves as the director of UA House at Fayette, a newly renovated, 30,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art community center—operated by Living Classrooms—which opened in November with a generous donation from Under Armour’s Kevin Plank. The cobalt-colored entrance beckons you inside where, to the left, a recording studio offers guitars, drums, and keyboards for making music and, to the right, a covered field house features a turf field and sky-high garage doors. There’s also a yoga and dance studio, a full-purpose neighborhood kitchen, and a regulation-size basketball court.

Just a few steps from where Street grew up (and near other low-income housing like Pleasant View Gardens and Douglas Homes), the 37-year-old now finds himself working to help transform the lives of those same kids he grew up with, not to mention their own children, and even grandchildren. “We’re taking a multigenerational approach,” he says. “The whole goal is to strengthen the communities and bring people together.”

As the anchor of Living Classrooms’ Target Investment Zone initiative, which aims to disrupt the cycle of poverty in 2.5 square miles of underserved communities from the JFX to Patterson Park, the UA House offers more than just fun and games. “This is the heartbeat of the community,” says James Piper Bond, president and CEO of Living Classrooms. “The programming that’s happening here is rippling out across the city.”

The space offers year-round after-school programming for elementary through high school students, and features a STEM classroom with white boards and Mac computers. The building’s lower level houses an impressive workforce development and entrepreneurship center with job and skill training for adults. “It’s about overcoming and eliminating barriers, looking at the long term, and making sure people succeed,” says Street. “When we say we are community-driven, we are. We know every household. This is my family.”

You May Also Like

News & Community

The Kids Are Alright

Baltimore youth are giving us hope for the future.

Health & Wellness

Spreading the Love

Ronald McDonald House Charities Maryland opens a new location in Jonestown.

The Chatter

City Council Urges Pugh’s Immediate Resignation; Mayor Vows to Return

Meanwhile, Mayor’s 2020 campaign consulting organization severs ties.

The Chatter

Maryland Politicians React to Good, Bad, and Ugly in Mueller Report

President didn’t conspire with Russian intelligence during 2016 election. He did try to seize control of the special counsel investigation.

The Chatter

Gino Marchetti Was Feared on the Gridiron and Beloved in Baltimore

The legendary Colts defensive end is remembered fondly by those in the Italian community.

The Chatter

NDMU Professor Reflects on Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral

Dr. Anne Henderson discusses the cathedral’s historical and religious significance.

Travis Street, second from left, and James Piper Bond, far right, at the UA House at Fayette. -Photography by Mitro Hood

Connect With Us

Most Read

Gender-Neutral Bathroom Bill Unanimously Passes City Hearing: Supported by transgender activists and Mayor’s LGBTQ Commission, legislation could be signed during next month’s Pride Weekend.

City Officials Express Concern Over Elon Musk’s Baltimore to D.C. Transit Plan: Before exploring intra-city transportation options, local leaders hope to address issues at home.

Arts Community Reflects on What The Windup Space Has Meant to Baltimore: Inclusive arts venue in Station North will close its doors on June 1.

Loyola Lacrosse’s Pat Spencer Readies for One Last NCAA Tournament Ride: One of the game’s all-time scoring greats plays at home for the last time Saturday.

Five Things to Know About Bernard C. “Jack” Young: East Baltimore native knows how to wield power and his first policy moves as mayor will be revealing.