Hansa Haus gets a new lease on life

September 06, 1991|By Edward Gunts

Hansa Haus, the Germanic-style building at Charles and Redwood streets that local preservationists put on the "endangered landmark" list after a group headed by developer Leonard Attman acquired it for more than $1.3 million several years ago, now appears likely to remain a fixture downtown for years to come.

Representatives of Attman Brokerage Services, an affiliate of Mr. Attman's development company, agreed last month to lease most of the former German steamship company headquarters for 10 years to the Tres Bon bakery and cafe chain, which plans to open a "flagship" operation there by the end of the year.

The agreement marks the first transaction involving the Attman property since Baltimore's Planning Commission in June rejected plan by Mr. Attman to buy one lane of Redwood Street and build a 32-story office tower at the southeast corner of Charles and Redwood streets, directly opposite Hansa Haus.

Mr. Attman had said that he would preserve Hansa Haus if he could obtain permission to close part of the street and build the tower. But he said on several occasions that he could make no promises to save Hansa Haus if he did not receive the city's permission to acquire part of the street. He also has refused to allow Hansa Haus to be added to Baltimore's official landmark list -- another sign to preservationists that he might someday want to raze or alter it.

The lease with Tres Bon is a sign that Mr. Attman is now committed to preserving the 2 1/2 -story structure, whose Germanic shields and other exterior details make it one of the most distinctive buildings in downtown Baltimore. Tres Bon will occupy the space vacated in late 1990 by the W. Bell and Co. catalog store.

Gary Attman, president of Attman Brokerage Services and another member of the development team that wanted to close part of Redwood Street, declined to comment on the status of his group's plan to build the office tower.

But he said that he was "delighted" about the agreement with Tres Bon and believes that it will be an ideal tenant for the building, which was constructed in 1911 to house the North German Lloyd Steamship Co.

"This is a significant lease and a significant development for downtown," he said. "We're very pleased to bring this quality tenant to the central business district."

"They were very picky about who goes in there. They wanted to preserve it," said Mark Singer, director of operations and development for Tres Bon.

According to Kathleen Kotarba, executive director of Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, the building's design is said to have been based either on an ancient courthouse in Halberstadt or a house in Wolfenbuettel. Exterior details, including shields representing the various cities of the Hanseatic League, reflect the German origin of the original occupant, she said.

Mr. Singer said Hansa Haus will be the fourth location for Tres Bon, which has operations in Towson, Timonium and near the Charles Center Metro stop.

The Moseley Corp. of Franklin, Mass., will start renovating the building this fall. Plans call for a full-service bakery at street level, a dining room seating 125 on the second level, and an outdoor cafe.

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