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$5M Arch Social Club Renovation First Step To Reviving Baltimore's Penn-North Corridor

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A community treasure dating back to the early 1900's is set to get a multi-million dollar renovation.

On Thursday, thanks to grant funding, city and state leaders along with community members kicked off the $5 million dollar Arch Social Club renovation project.

City leaders said this project is much more than just a facelift to a historical building.

Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford said the long-awaited renovation to the Arch Social Club will serve as one of the first steps to bringing Pennsylvania Avenue back as an entertainment and cultural center in Baltimore City.

Arch Social Club sits on the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues in West Baltimore and serves as the heart of Baltimore's African American community and much of the city's rich history.

"For more than a century, this building has stood proudly as a cornerstone of Baltimore's Black civic, political and cultural life," said Mayor Brandon Scott. "The avenue flourished with nightclubs, restaurants, motion picture venues and performance halls and the stores were bustled with eager customers."

A once-thriving destination for entertainment that echoed jazz and blues music throughout the corridor from 1920's to 1950's fell into a steep decline in the 1960's and served as ground zero for the 2015 Freddie Gray uprising.

"There hasn't been a lot done for this area since 1968 when the riots struck throughout this nation, and now were on a turnaround to rebuild this community," said Senator Antonio Hayes, District 40, Baltimore City.

"Efforts to work with the city and the state to address some of the challenges that we have right in this area and some of the roadblocks to revitalizations that are in place, some are social, some of it is health, but you have to address those issues if we're going to really revitalize Pennsylvania Avenue and the ways to do that," said Rutherford.

Now, the reimagination of historical Pennsylvania Avenue is underway, and Arch Social Club is the anchor to make it all happen.

"We're going to transform that image from being the image of ground zero from the Freddie Gray uprising to be a major entry cross street or major entry point into the Pennsylvania Avenue Black arts and entertainment district," said Van Anderson, president of Arch Social Club.

Organizers said they've acquired nearly $1.6 million dollars towards the $5 million dollar project.

"A place to come and eat, a place to come and socialize, a place to come even when things get rough… come here, we intend to be that spot," said Anderson.

Leaders said they have a vision to transform the area into a space for economic, cultural and youth development for future generations to come.

"This club does it all. They realize they are so much greater than entertainment. They are how were going to work to make sure our individuals, our people, our young people, our older adults are being able to thrive right here in West Baltimore," said Scott.

Organizers said the project will break ground as soon as they receive their re-zoning permit.

The project will be split into four phases. Phase one is expected to be completed by November 2022, which will include a new movie marquee, updating the club's electrical system, making the space ADA compliant, and expanding the museum.

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