Craft center proposed for vacant complex


March 27, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

The president of a Baltimore agency that sponsors craft shows is proposing to turn a portion of the defunct Power Plant into a crafts center that would feature art studios, galleries and shops.

Wendy Rosen, president of the Rosen Agency, laid out her plans this week to the Baltimore Development Corp., a quasi-public agency that oversees downtown development.

She said her proposal for the National Craft Center would include a residency program designed to attract the best talent from art schools around the country, workshops for adults and children, and a showcase for local artisans.

Her plans would leave room for an off-Broadway theater and a restaurant or catering operation in other parts of the Power Plant complex, she said.

Mrs. Rosen's proposal is among many for the cavernous building on Pier 4, which has been vacant for two years since Six Flags Corp. closed its P.T. Flagg's nightclub.

Honora Freeman, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., would not comment on Mrs. Rosen's proposal.

She said the city is looking at a number of proposals and is not close to making any decisions.

The 10-year-old Rosen Agency sponsors crafts shows in Baltimore, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and California. Last year the company expanded its shows to Japan and Germany.

The company, which has more than 30 employees, helped develop the Mill Centre, the 19th century factory at Falls Road and Chestnut Avenue that has been converted into artists' studios.

Mrs. Rosen said Baltimore is the perfect location for a permanent crafts exhibit because of its proximity to several large crafts fairs. The Baltimore Crafts Fair is the second-largest retail crafts fair in the country, she said.

Members of Mrs. Rosen's development team on the Power Plant project are: Bill Struever, president of Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse Inc., who would oversee construction; Leonard Sachs, head of LRS Associates, who would oversee financing; architect David Benn of Cho Wilkes & Benn; accountant Charles Geser of Millstein & Geser; and lawyer Rita Linder of Abramoff, Neuberger and Linder.

Over the past few years, there has been no shortage of ideas for the Power Plant. Plans have included a children's museum, a Depression-style speakeasy and a telecommunications center.

Robert Kemp, president of Kemp Balloons of Glen Burnie, proposed turning the Power Plant into a showcase for the helium-filled balloons his company makes for parades.

Del. John S. Arnick, D-Baltimore County, suggested that the Maryland Lottery Agency to set up a casino in the structure and that the city and the state split the profits.

"It could solve a big part of the city's tax problems," Mr. Arnick said. "That money is going off to Atlantic City.

Officials from the city, which owns the building, have met with many groups to discuss proposals for the building but have not )) found a proposal they considered acceptable and feasible.

The city had said it would consider leasing the building until a permanent use is found, but Mrs. Rosensaid she is not interested in using the building temporarily.

"This would be permanent," she said.

Mrs. Rosen estimates the cost of turning about 20,000 square feet of the complex into a crafts center at $500,000 to $1 million, which would come from the development team.

Similar crafts centers are found in in Alexandria, Va.; Toronto, Canada; Ashville, N.C; and Dallas.

Mr. Struever, also is working with Lenny Kaplan, a local caterer who wants to use part of the Power Plant as a catering operation, and with Hope Quackenbush, managing director of the Baltimore Center for Performing Arts, who wants to put an off-Broadway-style theater in the northernmost portion of the three Power Plant buildings.

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