National Federation of the Blind Adding New Sleeping Rooms and a Fitness Facility

| May 16, 2019 | 0 Comments

National Federation of the Blind (NFB), which has been headquartered at 200 E. Wells St. in Riverside for 40 years, is taking on a “multi-million dollar” renovation project to remodel some of the first spaces the company moved into. NFB is adding new sleeping rooms and a fitness facility to the 16,000 sq. ft. fourth floor of its Barney Street Wing. NFB’s Riverside headquarters is owned by the Jacobus tenBroek Fund.

The brick building along along Barney St. and Johnson St. was the original home for NFB in Riverside. In 2004, the organization took on a big expansion with a new five-story attached building that was constructed along E. Wells St. and Byrd St. Now NFB is hoping to refresh some of the organization’s original spaces on the property.

NFB will be adding about 21 sleeping rooms for guests and visitors in the Barney Street Wing. The new sleeping rooms are replacing office spaces. The rooms and fitness facility will be adjacent to the existing dining room and rooftop deck. New windows are being added to the fourth story of the Barney Street Wing.

NFB currently has about the same amount of sleeping rooms as they are adding, and those existing sleeping rooms will be converted into office spaces when the new sleeping rooms open around September.

NFB is always bringing guests from all over the world to visit its facility and hosts a lot of guests during its training seminars. “Our building is the best-known facility in the world for blind people,” NFB President Mark Riccobono told SouthBMore.com. “We take a lot of pride in investing in it and take pride in using dollars wisely.”

NFB has about 70 employees and brings “thousands” of people through its headquarters. Riccobono noted they love taking those visitors to establishments around the neighborhood. Many restaurants in South Baltimore have Braille menus.

The organization has an annual budget in the range of $22 million. Riccobono said 90% of the budget comes from individuals and organization and charitable contributions. NFB has 50,000 blind members throughout the country and the core of the fundraising is through the work of its members.

“Those volunteers work to generate that fundraising, protect the civil rights of blind people, and change the image of blind people,” said Riccobono.

NFB has a volunteer affiliate in every state and affiliated training centers in Colorado, Minnesota, and Louisiana.

NFB also has a board of directors comprised of 17 blind people. They are elected every year at NFB’s national convention.

“We are always looking for folks who want to help out and volunteer and we are usually hiring,” said Riccobono.”We hire folks who live in the neighborhood and they are some of the best employees, they have the South Baltimore swagger.”

NFB takes pride in being a part of the South Baltimore community and the improvements that have taken place. “We were here when Wells St. was a dirt road,” said Riccobono. “We’re proud of the growth of South Baltimore. We are proud to bring people to the building and show off the surrounding investments.”

“What we strive for is the full participation of the blind in society,” said Riccobono.  “We have a community that values having blind citizens. As new spaces like Port Covington are being built out, we are invited to the table to discuss how spaces can be improved for blind people.”

In recent years, NFB’s headquarters is just one of the many investments on Wells St., which includes new apartment buildings, office buildings, and restaurants. It is also adjacent to Port Covington, which is undergoing a 235-acre redevelopment.

NFB has hosted non-partisan community events in its event space including public safety forums with the Baltimore Police Department and elected officials, as well as political candidate forums.

The organization also takes pride in using its electric sign on the top floors of its building, which can be seen from I-95, to spread positive messages for the Orioles, Ravens, and city morale.

NFB is always hoping to meet more of its neighbors. “A lot of people look at our building and don’t know what happens here. We invite people to come by and learn about the organization,” said Riccobono.

Barney St. 

Byrd St. 

Johnson St. 

Wells St. 

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Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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