It all started with a group of Baltimore City teachers. Young, passionate, and often overwhelmed, they were (and still are) doing some of the most important work in our cities. Their question to us was simple: why is it so hard to find high-quality, affordable housing in the city, central to the schools where we teach? We saw an opportunity for the built environment to improve the lives of educators, and for vacant, underutilized buildings to be restored as vital structures in their communities. And most importantly, we saw the impact that these improvements could have on the quality of education students in Baltimore City receive. In 2009 we identified a building at 2601 N Howard St. in Remington, a former tin can factory that was 100,000 square feet of lost potential. It had sat vacant for 30 years and was falling apart, infested with various rodents, and a hazard to the community. We knew it didn’t have to stay that way. So, we reached out to members of the surrounding community along with the teachers we hoped would live in the apartments we built. Their constant, important feedback helped shape the entire process. The teachers helped with everything from designing what their apartments would look and feel like, to deciding what the rent should be. They helped us build their ideal housing: apartments available to educators at discounted rates, with the amenities they wanted most, like on-site resource rooms with free copying and printing, gated parking, a fitness center, and shared courtyard space. Through creative financing, including Historic and New Markets Tax Credits, we were able to keep rents affordable and preserve the character of a long-vacant factory. Housing that rolls out the red carpet for the teachers who spend their days educating our city’s children – we think it’s a win-win. Since Miller’s Court was completed in 2009, we’ve had the honor of leading two other projects to provide affordable, high-quality housing for teachers: Union Mill in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore in 2011 and Oxford Mills in Philadelphia in 2012. These projects have served nearly 700 teachers over the years, meaning that thousands of students in Baltimore City Schools have teachers who are living in housing they can afford, close to the schools where they teach. That means less time stressing about home and more time engaging with students. Just how it should be.
At Miller’s Court there is a sense of camaraderie among residents through our shared experiences as educators. Our jobs as educators can be demanding and all-consuming. Coming home to a comfortable apartment and knowing the management will be reliable and fast-acting in any situation, that is a huge relief. It’s one less thing to worry about when our plates are full.
Baltimore City Public School Teacher
Every day, Raven Cooper stands in front of a classroom full of first-graders at KIPP Harmony Academy in Baltimore’s Park Heights neighborhood and employs her enthusiastic, calm manner as she teaches about reading and writing. As we thought about the teachers and change makers who would end up living in our buildings, people like Raven are exactly who we imagined.
How did you end up coming to Baltimore to teach, and eventually, living at Miller’s Court?
I’m from California originally, and came to Baltimore in 2016 as part of the Teach for America cohort that year. I had never been to Baltimore when I found out I would be placed there and was frantically looking for places to live. I applied to Miller’s Court without seeing the apartment, or even visiting the city, simply because the pictures on the website looked nice, and they had a discount for teachers. The first time I saw the unit that I ended up signing a lease for was when I came out in the summer to begin teaching; it could have been a disaster, but I fell in love with the building.
What is it like living in a community with so many other teachers and education professionals?
Honestly, I thought it might end up being more like a dorm, but it’s been completely different, in a good way. It’s beneficial to be near other teachers, because there are times when you want company to do lesson planning, or just to go meet at Charmington’s and talk about what’s going on in your classroom.
How do you think living at Miller’s Court differs from other places you could have moved to when you came to Baltimore?
I’m so used to living in places where you’re not valued as a tenant, and this is the exact opposite. We have a copy machine and resource room, which is a total lifesaver for a teacher of first-graders. Many of the programs and courses offered to Baltimore City teachers are held in the conference rooms here, which is extremely convenient. In general, I have peace of mind about where I come home to each day, and that makes all the difference.
Miller's Court, Union Mill, and Oxford Mills have become home to over 700 teachers collectively since 2009.