In the early days of Seawall, we heard from many of our partners, whether teachers or committed nonprofit professionals, that one of the biggest things holding them back from doing city-changing work was how isolated they were from each other. They told us how even though many of them were working together to help underpin the success of the city school system, they were often in 30 different office buildings, paying rent to 30 different landlords, and ultimately, missing out on opportunities for connection and collaboration. That didn’t sound like the most productive way for nonprofits to serve the students and citizens of our cities. The vision our partners had was of a community of nonprofits that could make a single building their home base, enriching each other and the communities they work with because proximity fuels collaboration, innovation, and support. First at Miller’s Court in 2009, then at Union Mill in 2011 and Oxford Mills in 2012, we ensured that the 30,000-40,000 square feet of office space at each looked more like an active community of nonprofits than a collection of individual office users. Our nonprofit partners told us that finding regular meeting and conference space was both a headache and unwanted expense – so we included 5,000 square feet of shared meeting room space in each building, free and reservable to any nonprofit in our community. We helped them complete turnkey build-outs so their spaces met their budgets and their needs, and we included coffee shops like Charmington’s, Artifact Coffee, and Gryphon Coffee in the buildings for meetings or just a place to unwind. We’ve now served more than 50 nonprofit office partners at our buildings, and we love watching how their collaboration and passion fuels transformation both inside and outside the shared walls.
Seawall helped provide an environment for us to stabilize and reach more students.
Executive Director of Urban Alliance-Baltimore
As the executive director of Urban Alliance-Baltimore, Stephanie Amponsah helps young people in Baltimore City build pathways to employment through internships and mentorship, and we’ve been lucky enough to call her organization part of our family since 2010.
How did Urban Alliance-Baltimore become part of the Miller’s Court and Union Mill communities? And how has it been since you started working with Seawall?
In 2010, I was working with Urban Alliance as the program coordinator in Baltimore, and we didn’t have offices in here; we were just commuting back and forth to the national office in Washington DC. That was really difficult, because we were meeting with young people here and wanted to feel like part of the community, but didn’t have a homebase. We heard about what was happening at Miller’s Court and began sharing office space with another nonprofit. It was amazing to have a home in Baltimore, and also to have the conference space for meeting with young people. And in 2012, we were lucky enough to move into our own space at Union Mill.
How is it having your office space alongside other nonprofits working in the city? What do you gain from each other?
It’s amazing to be in a building with other like-minded organizations. We’re always looking for job partners for the young people in our program, and over the years, many of our longest partnerships have come from relationships with other nonprofits in Seawall buildings.
How is that experience different from one you might have in another building, in different office space?
Here, everyone is willing to pitch in when you’re in a bind. They understand the struggles and unique challenges nonprofits face. And instead of sending an email to make a connection or ask a question, I can walk across the hall. A lot of non-profit work is about relationships - making them and building them - and being in this community, the barriers to making relationships that move your work forward are much lower.