A new automated teller machine in Mount Vernon described as ugly, unauthorized and unwelcome won a reprieve yesterday -- but only until a more substantial building replaces it.
Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architecture Preservation voted unanimously to allow the ATM to remain until late summer, when the new building is expected to be completed.
Following the vote, an executive with Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Co., which owns the ATM, said the bank would begin construction next week on a $1 million bank branch at the northwest corner of Charles and Chase streets.
Thomas A. Mariani, senior vice president of retail banking for Mercantile, said Riparius Construction Co. has been chosen to be the general contractor.
"We're very pleased," he said after CHAP's vote, which allows the temporary teller machine to stay up until Aug. 31. "We want to get on with the building."
Designed by the firm Hord Coplan Macht, Mercantile's branch will be the second office project to begin construction in Baltimore this year. A group headed by Otis Warren began work last week on a $37 million office building at Howard and Baltimore streets.
CHAP scheduled a meeting to review the teller machine because its chairman received complaints from Mount Vernon-area merchants and residents about the appearance of the small building that houses the ATM and because it was built without the commission's approval.
Mr. Mariani had warned that Mercantile might drop its plans for the project and lease space for a branch elsewhere if the city gave the bank a hard time about the teller machine.
The most vocal opponent of the ATM at yesterday's hearing was LeoD'Aleo, an architect who owns the building next to the ATM at 1106 N. Charles St. and uses the upper levels to house his firm, D'Aleo Inc.
"We really oppose the insensitive manner in which it has been jammed down our throats," he said. "It restricts access to our property. There's no reason it can't be moved back. . . . It's a very ugly building, and we shouldn't have to be subjected to it."
But another Mount Vernon property owner, Joseph Hyman, pointedout that the teller machine is temporary. He said he believes the city should do what it can to help Mercantile move ahead with its project.
"The utmost thing in my mind is to keep people in the city," Mr. Hyman said. "Here we have a situation where a company is trying to respond to its customers. You've got to work with this organization so we don't lose the building."
Richard Gorelick, the new chairman of the architectural review panel of the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Improvement Association, said that, though the ATM building is not necessarily what every member of his organization would have preferred to see, "we are not unduly troubled by this, especially given its temporary nature."