A 3,200-square-foot space inside the East All Saints Parking Garage in Frederick is currently pretty barren — light fixtures hang throughout the space, and marks appear where large mirrors once were hung.
But hopefully, by early 2022, the area will be a cultural and education center for the African American Resources, Cultural and Heritage (AARCH) Society, an organization that aims to educate and inform Frederick County residents about the contributions and overall history of local African-Americans.
On Tuesday, Frederick Mayor Michael O'Connor and Mary Ford-Naill, the city's economic development manager, "gifted the key" for the space to AARCH President David Key and Vice President Seaven Gordon.
Ford-Naill said the new cultural center will be a great asset to the city and local community, especially given its proximity to the city and county's tourism center on East Street. She and O'Connor said the physical location will be incredibly important for AARCH officials to inform the public about their organization, along with displaying artifacts and telling the overall history of local African Americans.
"It will be another attraction [that] the city, the community and tourism can promote in an area where there's already a lot going on," O'Connor said. "A physical location will give people who visit Frederick and people who are from here ... the opportunity to hear the rich history of African Americans in Frederick, a story that's been under-told."
Key briefly described a preliminary vision for the space Tuesday. A large "arena" space on the western side could host presentations and films, with displays and artifacts being placed throughout much of the rest of the center. Rooms on the far eastern side would be used for storage and office space, Key said.
Last month, Frederick County government announced a $50,000 grant to AARCH to help the organization start the center. County Executive Jan Gardner said in a prepared statement the center "will help us to learn about our past, recognize the contribution of Blacks in Frederick County, and guide us as we work to move forward to shape a bright future for everyone."
Key said some other fundraising has started, and AARCH will hopefully be able to raise about $1 million to renovate and open the space by early 2022.
The city gifted the space to Key and AARCH, which will pay utility costs. Key said it will be important for the city and county, along with other community partners, to be involved with the renovation and build out the space.
Part of the building used to be a cycling studio, Key said. A lot of indoor renovation is still needed, but he is encouraged by the community support.
He also was apologetic that other AARCH members couldn't attend Tuesday, but the coronavirus pandemic meant the crowd needed to be small. Still, he's hopeful for the future of the space.
Key thanked O'Connor and city officials for gifting the space and for helping establish a future home for artifacts and items, many of which are currently in Key's work shed.
"The major thing here is to bring the community together," Key said. "And I think from this stage on, we will have that opportunity to bring people in and even be part of the build out of it ... [and] in terms of knowing we've gotten to this point, we do have a space now. So I think the interest is going to be more involved than it has in the past."