Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development

Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth Holt, left, listens to ReBUILD Metro’s Sean Closkey discuss his experience and success with community revitalization at a meeting with local leaders on Monday in Cambridge.

Holt said his department is “like a bank,” and could help citizens of Dorchester with access to capital, credit enhancements, and other financial services, and that his department can help “unlock the potential” of the local area.

“You need to be on site,” said Holt as he explained his department’s mission to facilitate lending to individuals and business, expand rural broadband access, resolve vacancies, and expand home ownership.

CAMBRIDGE — The head of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (MDHCD) announced new investment initiatives in a meeting with local officials on Monday afternoon, Jan. 6 in Cambridge. MDHCD Secretary Kenneth Holt met with the Mayor and City Council of Cambridge and members of the Dorchester County Council to discuss several local sites targeted for funding and other programs his department will promote in the area.

Holt announced that the MDHCD will be the lead tenant in the Packing House facility that is currently being rehabilitated. He said the mission of the new location will be a “focus on community engagement” as the staff helps local residents and investors while anchoring the facility for other tenants. “You need to be on site,” said Holt as he explained his department’s mission to facilitate lending to individuals and business, expand rural broadband access, resolve vacancies, and expand home ownership. Additionally, Holt said that adjacent Cannery Park is slated to receive a $510,000 block grant for rehabilitation and redevelopment.

Holt complimented the Waterfront Development Board’s (WDB) work on the Sailwinds project, and he said the development on the land currently held by local government combined with land that will be vacated by the hospital with help capture some of the “tourist energy” from the 10 million visitors drive on Route 50 each year.

He cited Mystic Seaport as a comparison, stating that a working waterfront is big attraction in combination, with possible restaurants and other businesses, a senior-oriented facility, and other residential space. Holt said the WDB had done a outstanding job and had come so far in a year’s time, and he added that his department is committed to helping provide the capital to bring the plans to reality.

Joining Holt as a guest was developer Sean Closkey of ReBUILD Metro, non-profit property development and management company specializing in community revitalization. Closkey got his start in Camden, New Jersey, where he participated in a community-based effort that reduced 700 abandoned properties down to 70. He described ReBUILD Metro’s process as coming to an area and asking, “Who is here, what do they want?” as the beginning of a process of “right-sizing” a market, which can including adjusting the value of a property from the current level to change what kind of financing the homeowner or buyer can access. Closkey said that in his experience, when success happens, people do not have to move to different areas. Abandoned properties are targeted to be demolished for open space, or to be rehabilitated or put to use as new development. ReBUILD Metro is currently working on developing and helping people in communities own and upgrade some of the 16,000 vacant units in Baltimore City.

The various home ownership and business development resources of the MDHCD will be focused on the Pine Street area. “Pine Street is first and highest priority,” said Holt, who referred to Beasley’s Store as a specific project that is being reviewed. According to Holt, the Pine Street community represents a market that needs to be “right-sized” to help accommodate home ownership and business development.

Holt spoke in support of the Maces Lane school being pursued by local non-profit Mace’s Lane Community Center, Inc., and he said he was hopeful about talks with the Cal Ripken Foundation as a possible partner for the creation of athletic fields.

Holt pointed to the Hearn Building as an example of the MDHCD’s investment in Cambridge. He said that responding to the request for help for the Hearn Building from State Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore was “first overture to Cambridge from the state,” and that he is pleased with the direction that new ownership is taking.

Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley announced other recent grant award to bring the total including the new Cannery Park grant to $1,505,000. Dorchester County Councilman Ricky Travers thanked Secretary Holt and Governor Larry Hogan, stating that their ongoing support in bringing funding to projects in Dorchester.

Holt said his department is “like a bank,” and could help citizens of Dorchester with access to capital, credit enhancements, and other financial services, and that his department can help “unlock the potential” of the local area.

More information about the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development can be found online at http://dhcd.maryland.gov/.

More information about ReBUILD Metro can be found online at https://rebuildmetro.com/.

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