By Nicole D. Batey,
Special to the AFRO
More than 250 attendees stood in the space of what used to be the Target store at Mondawmin Mall to learn more on what would become of the West Baltimore building.
Area residents and Baltimore City students, community leaders, business owners and employees, non-profit organizations all gathered on March 29 to hear details of how the 127,000-square-foot site will be turned into an active community hub.
The center is expected to revitalize the historic West Baltimore neighborhood and Mondawmin Mall. And unlike other developers, the site will be developed in consultation with local community leaders.
Tim Regan, Whiting-Turner Contracting Company president and chief executive officer, personally acquired the 8.3-acre site, which has been vacant since 2018, for $1 million and has projected a multi-million-dollar follow-on investment in the property.
That additional investment will follow as specific uses for the building are identified and associated renovations are made.
It’s not uncommon for a developer to purchase property in Baltimore City. There has been a recent surge of development corporations amassing prime realty in the city for profitability, sometimes at the cost of those who have long been residents in the community and often without them in mind. Supporters say this will be different.
Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby said, “Today is a historic day. We could sit back and act as if this is another development opportunity. We could act as if we’re about to plan out some groundbreaking event, some ribbon-cutting ceremony for some new institution or commercial establishment that’s coming to West Baltimore. We could act as if that’s what we’re doing here today, but that wouldn’t be anything close to what history says we’re doing.”
The reimagined site will help unlock the vast untapped talent in the neighborhoods of West Baltimore and advance growth within the city.
“This space presents a unique opportunity for Mondawmin residents to shape the future of their amazing neighborhood,” Regan said. “It is the ideal location to launch businesses, organizations, programs and collaborations that will realize the vision neighbors have for their community. I firmly believe the Mondawmin area is on the cusp of a renaissance, and I’m hopeful this investment in the mall area will spur additional investment throughout the larger community.”
Regan is not alone in his efforts. Exelon Senior Executive Vice President and COO Calvin Butler, often referred to by Regan as “his brother from another mother,” is working alongside him to bring this vision to fruition.
In 2016, in response to the Freddie Gray unrest, Regan and Butler co-founded Mondawmin’s TouchPoint Baltimore, a unique collaboration space that was developed and funded exclusively by Whiting-Turner and BGE. The space became home to several nonprofit organizations – Thread and Baltimore Corps. The Center for Urban Families, with its headquarters nearby, is also a key partner in TouchPoint.
Others who spoke during the press conference on March 29 included: Rev. Dr. Franklin Lance, Pastor of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church; Adeline Wheless-Hutchinson, President of The Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council (GMCC); Joseph T. Jones, Jr., Founder, President and CEO of Center for Urban Families (CFUC); and Romaine Smallwood-Faison, General Manager of Mondawmin Mall.
“Tim has long been a valued and highly involved community partner, and I couldn’t be more pleased to expand our collaboration,” said Hutchinson in a press release. “Today’s announcement represents a critical investment in our neighborhood and resolves widely held concerns about the future of a prominent local landmark that has sat empty for years. Tim’s ongoing commitment to Mondawmin and our neighbors speaks to his belief in the area’s potential for continued growth. This will be a transformational project for West Baltimore.”
Faison added that “Mondawmin Mall has such deep roots in West Baltimore and has been a place where members of the community have worked, shopped, dined and been entertained for nearly 70 years. This will be a wonderful opportunity from a philanthropic standpoint and is truly something that will better our community. We look forward to the important work that Tim Regan and his team will do to enhance our shopping center for generations to come.”
This is a tremendous booster shot in the arm for the West Baltimore neighborhood. Although strong in its community roots, it had been long plagued by the city’s ills and lack of opportunity.
“We’re not blind or naive to the serious issues that need to be addressed in our great city. I know that when we invest our time, our treasure, and our hearts, we begin to chip away at the root causes of the serious issues that we face from day to day,” said Regan.
“Sometimes you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable and that’s why we are standing here today,” said Mosby. “I love history! I love Baltimore City’s history! I love West Baltimore’s history! I know that when the young folks read about West Baltimore history in 50, 60, 70, 100 years, they will read about a man named Tim Regan who was comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Decisions on the use and reconfiguration of the massive property will be based on community input. Potential opportunities could include retail spaces for locally-based entrepreneurs, a larger TouchPoint facility with expanded tutoring and mentoring capacity, and some expanded workforce readiness programming in collaboration with the Center for Urban Families.
Other possible uses include a catering/events space, a teaching kitchen, and a small Whiting-Turner “midtown” office.
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