For Immediate Release:

West Baltimore Renaissance Foundation Celebration: Event Showcases Plans for New Community Opportunity Center on Site of Former Gelato Manufacturing Facility

October 26 Celebration Also Introduces New Name for the Facility: “The Factory: A West Baltimore Opportunity Center”

Baltimore, MD - The West Baltimore Renaissance Foundation (WBRF) hosted a celebration on October 26, 2021, to debut its plans to convert a former gelato manufacturing facility in West Baltimore into a community “opportunity center.” The facility will serve as the foundation’s home as well as have space for partners offering community services, such as workforce development and violence prevention. 

The 33,000 square foot building will also have a commercial kitchen to support food initiatives, a teaching kitchen, classroom, computer lab and community gathering space. With construction beginning soon, the renovated center is expected to open in the summer of 2022. 

Neighborhood and community leaders, along with representatives from LifeBridge Health, serve on the WBRF board, and were among the attendees at the event, which culminated with the reveal of the facility’s planned transformation and its new name - The Factory: A Baltimore Opportunity Center.

The event also served as a debut for the WBRF itself, which began its work at the start of the COVID pandemic. Since that time, WBRF has awarded more than $3.5 million in grants to 40 organizations that are either based in West Baltimore or have a partnership with an organization in the area. 

“Our mission at WBRF is to empower West Baltimore residents and communities through strategic investments that expand services, amenities and opportunities that lead to a lasting impact on their health and quality of life,” said Kurt Sommer, WBRF executive director. 

WBRF was created as part of LifeBridge Health’s 2019 acquisition of Grace Medical Center (the former Bon Secours Hospital) as part of the health system’s agreement to invest in the West Baltimore community to improve social determinants of health, ranging from employment to food access.

Although related to the LifeBridge Health acquisition, WBRF functions as a separate nonprofit organization with an independent board of directors who oversees grant awards in four key areas: workforce development, food access, population health and youth mentoring programs. 

WBRF’s work complements LifeBridge Health’s ongoing investment to upgrade facilities and services at Grace Medical Center. LifeBridge Health debuted a renovated emergency department at Grace in January 2021 and more recently added new medical specialties such as pediatrics, ophthalmology and OB/GYN. The final phase of the health system’s $85 million investment at Grace will be the construction of a two-story outpatient medical building. 

Sharon Boston