EASTON — The Arc Central Chesapeake’s 24,000-square-foot Port Street Commons center is growing, with concrete monoliths, the beginnings of the new building, reaching into the sky.
And as the project takes shape, they are getting closer to providing both affordable housing and support for community members with developmental disabilities, Arc leadership said.
“We started construction on Aug. 14, so yes, we are roughly six months in. That estimates the completion is November 4,” said Jonathon Rondeau, the president and CEO of The Arc Central Chesapeake Region.
“It was always designed to be a 14-month build, and we have worked in partnership with our architect, Rauch, and our general contractor, BGC, to keep on top of that,” he said.
To speed up the construction process, everything down to bathroom tile has already been chosen.
“There is no design process at the same time, which is a little bit different. We front load everything. That is where delays are, making decisions on site,” Rondeau said.
He said the design of the building is meant to mirror what it looked like in Easton 50 or 60 years ago, mimicking architectural styles that were common in the area at the time.
It will be three stories tall and have one elevator.
According to Rondeau, the building will provide space for The Arc to continue to grow in their mission.
“The Arc Central Chesapeake has been providing support and services to people with disabilities in the Mid-Shore region for 20 years,” he said. “Over the last five, we have seen a growth in our services by over 80%. The need to have a more established presence here was true when we chose Easton as sort of a central hub for the Mid-Shore and the Eastern Shore as our headquarters 15 years ago.”
The Arc been getting support from the town, county and state inspectors.
“Everyone has been aligned to help us to get on that timeline,” he said.
This facility has two large goals. One is creating affordable housing, which Talbot County needs for people like EMS workers. The Arc has a specific hourly range in mind.
“Fifteen years ago, The Arc started a housing subsidiary called Chesapeake Neighbors, One, to create better housing for people with disabilities, but also realizing that if we are going to create inclusive and equitable communities, they can’t just be people with disabilities,” Rondeau said. “Chesapeake Neighbors’ vision is to create affordable housing for all.”
They have grown from 11 units to over 70. Nine of these will be at Port Street.
“There will be seven two-bedroom apartments and two three-bedroom apartments on this site. It might be for your local Barista or a person who works at Royal Farms. It could be a teacher or childcare worker — people who make $20 to $25 an hour,” he said.
Rondeau said that Talbot County’s median income is $100,000.
So even if someone makes $80,000, they can’t buy or rent easily in the county. Aside from Scotty’s Taxi, there is no public transportation.
Where is all this money coming from to build Port Street Commons?
“We have a capital campaign called Expanding What Is Possible. It officially launched two years ago. We have raised about $5.1 million to date,” Rondeau said. “The total campaign is $8.5 million. Under Gov. Hogan we received $1 million. Under Gov. Moore we have received $1.5 million. And from the federal government with Sen. Van Hollen and Sen. Cardin, we received $750,000.”
He said the Arc is looking to hire direct support professionals. They already have 400 people in that role, but will need more help on Port Street. Applicants do not need a degree, and the Arc will train new employees with 80 or 90 hours. They are looking for people who want to affect change in a person’s life.
“I am excited to be taking a piece of land that really didn’t have a purpose and there will be something meaningful that the community has needed for a long time, particularly Port Street,” Rondeau said. “And there will be a community hub for the people we support, like families with children with disabilities. It will look like a Capital One cafe. The Easton Rotary Club sponsored this room. It will be the Easton Rotary Community Hub.”
Rondeau ended with, “There is a huge need in the community. The building is a catalyst for someone to get services. It allows families to feel like they are safe. And The Arc is investing and putting roots in this community.”
*This article originally appeared in The Star Democrat.