Parking lot, park asked by BG&E Historic Terminal Warehouse site is tapped for razing.

April 23, 1992|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

The six-story Terminal Warehouse, part of the Fells Point historic district and one of the largest buildings on the East Baltimore waterfront, would be demolished and replaced with a combination park, parking lot and waterfront promenade if the Schmoke administration approves the plan.

Dating from the early 1900s and originally used to store cargo shipped through the port of Baltimore, the vacant building at 1601 Thames St. is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The KMS Group, which manages the building for Constellation Properties, a subsidiary of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., is seeking city permission to raze the warehouse and landscape the 1.3-acre site until market conditions enable Constellation to move ahead with a replacement project.

The plan marks the second instance in less than two months in which a property owner has sought to raze a historic property here and landscape it for interim uses until the real estate market improves.

The other pending case involves the Southern Hotel at Redwood and Light streets, a 13-story building that a development team wants to replace with a park until it can move ahead with construction of a 46-story office tower.

In recent years, city officials have allowed owners to raze the Tower Building at South and Baltimore streets, the McCormick & Co. spice plant at 414 Light St. and the News American plant at 301 E. Lombard St. to make way for future development.

Before making a decision on the warehouse, Baltimore Housing Commissioner Robert Hearn is giving the property owner and neighborhood residents a chance to express their views at a community forum set for 7:30 p.m. April 29 at the Lemko House, 603 S. Ann St.

The Terminal Warehouse is the largest single structure on a 12-acre parcel that Constellation owns next to its Brown's Wharf retail and office complex at Broadway and Thames Street.

Several years ago, the owners said their long-range plan was to raze the warehouse and construct a second phase of Brown's Wharf, but they never moved ahead with a specific project.

When he first took office, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he would like the developers to provide specific plans for a replacement building and proof of financing before they proceeded with demolition.

Kent Johnson, assistant vice president for KMS, said the firm is seeking to raze the building now because it looks as if no new development will occur in the near future and the warehouse has become an "attractive nuisance" that draws vagrants. He said the building hinders use of the parking lot behind it and razing it would allow the owner to improve public access to the waterfront and bring parking closer to the first phase of Brown's Wharf.

BG&E officials said earlier this month that they wanted to get the company out of the real estate business and sell their holdings but would not do so at fire-sale prices.

Mr. Johnson said the company does not expect to sell the Fells Point property soon but wants to be in a position to keep the area well-maintained and attract new users.

He said the major change in BG&E's stance regarding Fells Point is that it will not build projects without signing tenants in advance, and KMS believes it would have a far better chance to do so with the site cleared and landscaped.

"What we're looking for is to . . . have a site that is attractive to some sort of end user who wants to be on the Fells Point waterfront," Mr. Johnson said. "We have come to realize that our ability to redevelop the site is enhanced significantly if we are ready to go" with new construction.

Carolyn Donkervoet, executive director of the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point, said her group is waiting until after the April 29 meeting to take a position on the plan.

She expressed concern about the utility's recent disclosure about its real estate holdings and what that might mean for other buildings it controls in Fells Point, among them the London Coffee House and the George Wells Residence, Chase's Wharf and Miller's Wharf.

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