By Catherine Pugh,
Special to the AFRO

If Grove Park community leaders have their way, the elementary school that was shut down five years ago won’t become the future site of a nursing home.

Residents have been voicing their concerns about the derelict property and the plans to turn it into a nursing home run by the Ohio-based company, CommuniCare, for months. Still, city officials have been moving forward with the plan. 

Petitions have been signed, emails have been sent and social media posts have been made– all claiming that residents do not want the nursing home in their neighborhood.

The issue was revisited in a Jan. 20 community meeting, where stakeholders discussed the compatibility of a nursing home in a solid northwest Baltimore neighborhood.

“I can honestly tell you…that we are not happy with the way this selection of CommuniCare went down to develop this location into a senior care facility,” said Karen M. Braden, president of the Grove Park Improvement Association (GPIA). “It is our understanding that the sale is not yet complete, and we still want to have answers. We have asked questions of our Councilman Schleifer and we are not comfortable with the answers he has provided us. He calls this venture with CommuniCare a big investment for our community and one of the biggest projects he has going in his district,” said Braden.

The Grove Park community, according to GPIA Vice President Stephen Ward, had other plans in mind for the closed Grove Park Elementary School. 

“We wanted another school here,” said  Ward.  

Other proposals for the site, preferred by the GPIA members, were submitted to the city’s Housing Department. The community members suggested the BEAM Prep School be given a home in their neighborhood. The proposed Business and Economics Academy of Maryland, would be operated by Calvin Watkins, a resident of  the Grove Park Community. Others put forth the idea that the Concord Baptist Church operate a community center.

Still, the residents say Councilman Schleifer has not honored their requests, instead choosing to develop a plan for the building with CommuniCare, a company that has donated thousands to politicians in the state.

“We are not ready to get on board with the selection of CommuniCare. We have many questions that deserve to be answered,” said Braden, who identified some of the most pressing concerns they want addressed.

“No provisions have been made in this community for our young people and we want that.  The school provided a meeting place, after school programs and a place where our children could play,” said Braden. “We have over 100 youth in this immediate community. They need a playground and place to go for activities.  These concerns need to be addressed before we can move forward.”

Then there is the matter of community safety, she said. “We want to know how much security will be provided for our community. We are nestled here in a pretty safe and clean community, and we want to keep it that way.” 

CommuniCare sent a representative to the town hall meeting Grove Park held last week, assuring residents that their interests will be addressed. But many Grove Park residents are not convinced their interests are being considered. 

“I  asked him if he is taking back everything to CommuniCare that he hears in our meetings,” Braden said. He responded that he was,” said Braden. “The community does not want CommuniCare in their neighborhood.  They do not communicate with us, so we don’t trust them,” she said.  

“We are asking that  the City Housing Department start a new process.”

Vice Braden Ward says the community is organizing and “you will see signage going up,” he said. “We are asking other communities that are reaching out to us to continue supporting us. We don’t want a nursing home or anything that is going to operate in that building for 24 hours,” said Braden.

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