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April 23, 2023

Money slated to renovate former Carver Center

Credit: Cumberland Times News

CUMBERLAND — Over the past several decades, 340 Frederick St. has become a fixture in the city’s history.

The massive brick building, left tattered after about a dozen years of vacancy, was built in the early 1920s as the George Washington Carver High School for Black students.

It later housed Allegany Community College, and the Carver Community Center.

Today, if funding is finalized, the building will be brought back to life to nurture children and strengthen the community.

“It’s a must have,” said Carmen Jackson, a member of the Carver Community Center’s board of directors. “Drugs are ravaging our community. I think this is our answer.”

Jackson and several other local leaders were at the building Friday with U.S. Rep. David Trone, who submitted to the House Committee on Appropriations $2 million to renovate the Carver Center.

The committee will develop its final government funding package and work to pass the proposal into law.

Trone, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the federal funding is crucial to reestablish the Carver Center as a major resource in the city of Cumberland.

The renovated building is expected to house local nonprofits, including the Boys and Girls Club that provides services for children ages 6 to 18 after school and during the summer.

“Our mission is to bring home the money,” Trone said and added that he is “highly optimistic” the funding will happen.

The renovation project is supported by Democrats and Republicans, he said.

“This is definitely a game changer … for our children,” Trone said.

Addie Nardi, CEO of Washington County-based Boys and Girls Club, said the organization formed a partnership with the Cumberland Housing Authority a couple of years ago and has been operating from its Banneker Gardens.

“When we started looking for permanent space this fit the bill for us,” she said of the Carver building.

“The goal is to have space here to grow … and serve more kids,” Nardi said.

Matt Miller, executive director and president of the Cumberland Economic Development Corp., said the roughly 15,000 square feet building has some improvements, including sprinkler and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.

“It just obviously needs a facelift and some upgrades,” he said. “This building has a ton of potential.”

If the money is made available, which Trone expects will happen in early 2024, the renovation project would take about a year, Miller said.

The building “fits in perfectly with our community development plan,” Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss said.

He thanked Trone for his support.

“(Trone) truly listens … to get what we need,” Morriss said. “He’s a home run hitter.”

Ruth Davis-Rogers, historic preservation planner for the city, said new uses for old buildings boost morale for Cumberland residents and help strengthen the community.

The renovated building “will be a huge asset to the city,” Cumberland Councilman Eugene Frazier said.

Debra Frank is vice president of the Carver Community Center Board of Directors.

The organization held community meetings to discuss the future of the building and people wanted to pay homage to the former George Washington Carver High School and Allegany Community College, she said.

“It’s important that the board engage the community in creating our mission for this … being mindful of the history of the building,” she said.