University of Maryland, Baltimore Announces New 20,000 sq. ft. Hollins Market Community Engagement Center

| July 31, 2019 | 0 Comments

The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) is expanding its outreach in the Southwest and West Baltimore communities that surround its Hollins Market BioPark campus with the launch of a brand-new 20,000 sq. ft. Community Engagement Center (CEC). The four-story building at 16  S. Poppleton St. was first constructed in 1917 and was formerly part of the St. Peter’s Church complex. It was most recently used as a drug and alcohol residential treatment center.

UMB acquired the building last year for $265,000. The building is currently boarded up and has broken windows in the upper levels.

UMB runs a 3,000 sq. ft. CEC at 870 W. Baltimore St. that it opened in 2015 and has since outgrown. In four years, the current center has recorded more than 35,000 visits from men, women, teens, and children who engage with its services and programming. The CEC is where “UMB helps its neighbors find jobs, gives children a safe place to learn and play, hosts health and fitness programs, and connects neighbors with various resources,” according to UMB. It will also house the UMB Police Athletic/Activities League (PAL) and serve as a home to UMB’s CURE Scholars Program, which prepares West Baltimore middle and high school students for competitive and rewarding careers in research, STEM, and health care.

“UMB is committed to this city, to the residents of West Baltimore,”said UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD in a press release. “I’m so grateful that our neighbors have put their trust in us and are eager to partner with us in something this special. This new center builds on a lot of the hard work we’ve undertaken together as a community, and I can’t wait to see what we create from here.”

Renovations are getting underway and an official groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for October 24th. UMB estimates construction will  be completed by Summer 2020.

To fund the new CEC, the university received a $4-million grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and secured $4 million in private philanthropy to facilitate construction on the project.

“UMB’s Office of Community Engagement, as well as our many community partners and our community advisory board members, have worked tirelessly over the last four years to grow the CEC into what it is today,” said Ashley Valis, MSW, executive director for the Office of Community Engagement and a resident of West Baltimore, in a press release. “Together, we have imagined, planned, brainstormed, and convened many residents to deliver a new community center that will be a welcoming, fun, educational, relaxing, respectful, and transformational space for our neighbors. It will be a place that our community deserves and has been needed for a long time.”

The UM BioPark continues to grow and currently has six buildings up and running within its footprint. Wexford Science & Technology is planning a $200-plus million, 10-story, 333,000 sq. ft. office and biotech building at the northwest corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and W. Baltimore St. and hopes to break ground this year.

Renderings courtesy of UMB

The South Baltimore Now Podcast Latest Episodes Produced by Nathan Carper:

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.