Written by Erica Stewart
A broken bone in my foot and thirty-odd sawdust covered steps didn’t diminish my appreciation for the transformation that CASA de Maryland is leading at the McCormick-Goodhart Mansion in Langley Park, Maryland. I joined a group of National Trust for Historic Preservation members and staff recently for a tour of the former grand country home that will become a multicultural center for the extremely diverse and under-served community outside its doorstep. Despite the fancy-footwork-on-crutches that my visit required, I was thrilled to witness this exciting marriage of many important ideals that underpin that buzzword on everyone’s lips: sustainability. The presentation and hard hat tour clearly illustrated how, after years of negotiation, compromise and fundraising, historic preservation, community development, and green building are neatly conjoined in this currently very messy rehabilitation project.
First, a little context. The Georgian Revival McCormick-Goodhart Mansion was built in 1924 amid a vast 565-acre estate. Decades later, the mansion was vacated and a crop of low-income, garden style apartments sprung up around the edges of the home. The surrounding community is one of the most diverse in all of Maryland, with residents hailing from all corners of the globe: French-speaking Africa, India, Central America and Poland, to name a few. Per capita income is just $11,300 and more than 150 languages are spoken at the local elementary school.
This environment makes the McCormick-Goodhart Mansion the perfect home for CASA. The nonprofit was founded in a church basement in1985 to serve the basic, immediate needs of the primarily Latino immigrant community in Maryland: food, shelter, health care. As that community has grown and evolved, so has CASA. That evolution necessitated a larger facility from which to serve its ever-growing client base. Enter Sawyer Realty LLC, owner of the badly weather-damaged mansion. At the cost of $1, ownership was transferred to CASA in 2007 and an ambitious fundraising campaign began. A key component was the complex historic tax credit deal brokered by the National Trust Community Investment Corporation that secured $12 million in state/federal historic and New Markets Tax Credit equity from Enterprise Foundation and Bank of America.
Once the rehab is completed, CASA’s new headquarters will house its expanded programs: financial literacy classes, computer literacy classes, a justice center for pursuing legal and civil rights issues, and cafeteria for service industry training. Several other social service organizations that specialize in serving other minority populations will take up residence as well, ensuring that the region’s many immigrant communities receive the best possible assistance.
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