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Arts community hoping to keep Area 405 affordable as sale looms

Posted at 10:11 PM, Jul 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 00:01:32-04

BALTIMORE — It’s called Area 405 and it’s a hub for the artist community in Baltimore City.

The building is up for sale and community members are coming together in a hopes to keep it as a center for creativity and not have it turned into high end living.

Instead of checking out a book — at the Station North Tool Library you come in and pick up a saw or a wrench.

They have over 3000 tools and inventory and serve thousands of people in Baltimore every year.

Memberships are on a sliding scale so people that make more chip in more and if you make less you can contribute less.

Lynn McCann is the Station North Tool Library Director of Development.

“It’s crucial for Maryland and Baltimore to have this resource in place and also for us to be located in this neighborhood where we are in the center of the city,” McCann said. “It’s so accessible to the neighbors who live her and also by public transportation.”

The Tool Library is one of the tenants that rents space in the 67,000 square foot building that runs from 405 to 417 E Oliver Street.

The building also hosts around 50 studios for artists and a gallery space.

And this space is up for sale— leaving the tenants future up in the air.

Jessa Wais is the Station North Tool Library Director of Library Services.

“We are just hoping to keep this building an affordable art space for the community," Wais said. “We’re hoping that the tool library can stay here. Like we’ve said we’ve been here since the beginning. If it wasn’t for the affordable we’ve been allotted we don’t even know if we’d be able to do what we’ve done. We truly have relied on affordable rent to provide affordable tools.”

They may be creating small things like cutting boards in these workshops but the goal is to make a big impact on communities by giving people skills to build up and revitalize the places where they live.”

“It helps to beautify Baltimore on a budget. We have also been working on renovating a vacant house,” said Lavenia Calvin who was dropping off a lawn mower. “There’s no way we could have done it without the tools and the know how that we have gotten from this Station North Tool Library.”

Jack Danna is the Director of Commercial revitalization for the Central Baltimore Partnership or CBP.

The non profit is a community development organization focused on revitalizing the Station North Arts District, Greenmount Ave and all of Central Baltimore.

CBP has submitted a proposal to buy the building from the people who own the majority shares of it— promising to keep the building affordable.

“They have responded and came down a little, but still there’s a gap,” Danna said. “CBP is still working feverishly to find a way to get to a price that works for the group here. We’re eternally optimistic in community development it’s the only way you get up everyday and do this job.”

Dr. Sheri Parks is the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for MICA.

She said 405 is a community space for artists to grow and create.

“Often artists get used to gentrify an area, it’s actually a tactic to let the artists come in and make things better than you push them out and you bring in people who are more affluent,” said Parks. “This really important for the character of Baltimore that it be made better for the people already here. If we start losing the people who are already here we lost the heart and grit.”

A building with a rich history serving as a hub of creation.

The people who make it special hoping the owners sell to someone who wants to keep it that way.

To learn more about the tool library and to support them click here.