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 / Updated  / Source: NBC News
By Becky Bratu

An Indiana architecture firm on Tuesday offered to help restart the work on a senior housing center in east Baltimore that was consumed by flames Monday night.

Sponsored by the Southern Baptist Church, the center, which would have also included 60 affordable housing units, was about nine months from opening.

Officials said they are still investigating whether the blaze was an arson linked to Monday's riots.

Pastor Donte Hickman said the $16 million project was meant to be "a catalyst development for more redevelopment in this community.

"It took us eight years to envision this, to get the funding for it, to acquire the properties when other people didn't want to invest in this community," Hickman said in the aftermath of the massive fire.

Michael J. Bluitt, of HCO, Inc. in Indiana — a firm that specializes in faith-based building projects — said he learned what happened to the senior center and decided to act.

"I saw it on the news this morning and it was devastating to us," Bluitt told NBC News. "It's like losing a family member."

Bluitt contacted a local TV station and asked them to put him in touch with Hickman, whom he surprised live on air with the good news. The pastor was visibly moved by Bluitt's offer of a free conceptual rendering and design consultation, which would have an estimated cost of $35,000-$40,000.

The church has also started a GoFundMe campaign, which as of Tuesday night was only a fraction of the way toward a goal of $16 million.

Firefighters battle a blaze, Monday, April 27, 2015, after rioters plunged part of Baltimore into chaos, torching a pharmacy, setting police cars ablaze and throwing bricks at officers. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)Patrick Semansky / AP