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Senior center burned in riots to reopen April 27

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Posted at 6:07 PM, Apr 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-12 06:22:43-04
Even with a major setback, construction took just a fraction of the time it took to dream up and plan for the Mary Harvin Senior Center, which is now 90 percent leased.
 
Shirley McNeil said had been looking forward to living there since day one.
 
"We have moved on up," she said. 
 
McNeil said it is hard to describe everything she likes about calling the 61-unit senior housing building home.
 
"I'm happy. I didn't think I would be because I'm blind. No vision in my right eye and very little in my left and I was scared at first but I've had no sleepless nights at all. It's beautiful," McNeil said. 
 
Construction was completed about two and a half months ago, but the formal grand opening comes on April 27.
 
 
"Exactly one year from the fire we're going to celebrate the rebuilding of Mary Harvin and we should be fully leased by that time," Kevin Bell, senior vice president of The Woda Group, Inc., said. 
 
According to the ATF, someone intentionally set the building on fire during the unrest. A representative told ABC2 investigators continue to follow leads to determine who was responsible. 
 
Bell said the plan immediately for all involved was to start over.
 
"It's not just making lemons out of lemonade, it's more than that. It's having something rise up good from something terrible and that's something to be proud of and hopefully it's something that will be a symbol of what's going on here in this community and in Baltimore as a whole," Bell said. 
 
"To see it come into fruition even after such a tragedy is awe inspiring. .... It's hope in the middle of a desolate place. A place that has been underserved for decades and even with Johns Hopkins and its development to the south and so much going on around the community, not much was happening here but now because of this project, it's a catalyst for so many more opportunities within this community," Pastor Donte Hickman, of Southern Baptist Church, said. 
 
Pastor Hickman said the fire is always in his mind and being inside to see the finished product is surreal. 
 
His church will provide all kinds of services to people who live here and people who don't.
 
"I've always said that you can't plant one tree and call it a forest. This is the second of many projects that the church has been a part of," Hickman said. 
 
The grand opening is at 2 p.m. on April 27. Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake are expected to attend the celebration. 
 

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