The Schmoke administration is moving ahead with plans to acquire the old Hecht Co. store on Howard Street and an adjacent building, both to serve as the new Baltimore police headquarters.
The city Planning Commission on Thursday approved an amendment to the urban renewal plan for the Howard Street corridor that clears the way for the city to take by condemnation the vacant retail store and a smaller, three-story building at 315-319 Lexington St. if negotiations to purchase the buildings fall through, according to city officials.
The relocation of police headquarters from its current location at 601 E. Fayette St. is being handled by the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's quasi-public development agency.
The city decided to find a new headquarters site because the Fayette Street building needs costly asbestos-removal work. In March, after months of reviewing development proposals, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke decided to accept an offer by the owners of the 280,000-square-foot Hecht Co. building.
Since then, the city has decided it may need to purchase the Lexington Street building to provide the police with a "secure" route by which police cars can enter the Hecht Co. building when they are transporting suspects or prisoners, said Deputy Police Commissioner Michael Zotos. The Lexington Street building backs onto an alley that feeds directly into the Hecht Co. building, he said.
The Lexington Street building, which leases spaces to a children's clothing store and a furniture store, is owned by Max Development. Robert Max, the president of the development firm, said he could not discuss the city's recent interest in his building because negotiations will soon begin.