Restoration Survives Recession

May 28, 1992

For the past 23 years, honoring restoration projects has been a tradition for Baltimore Heritage, the city-wide preservation organization. This year's awards ranged from excellence in the adaptive use of the old Greyhound bus terminal to the renovation of a small 1890s commercial structure at 21 West Hughes Street in Federal Hill. Despite recession, "we were kind of surprised to find a good amount of high-quality projects," the preservation group's president, Fred B. Shoken, observed.

The awards showed the increasingly important role institutions are playing in preservation efforts. Out of 10 awards, six went to institutions.

The Walters Art Gallery transformed the 1851 Hackerman House from a white elephant into an exhibit space combining design innovations with meticulous restoration. Using federal funds, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City turned an old canning factory at 924 Lakewood Avenue into elderly housing. Maryland Institute restored its main building on Mount Royal Avenue.

The University of Maryland took the vacant old Pine Street police station and converted that Victorian gem into its security office. The advertising agency of Trahan, Burden and Charles gave another lease of life to an old pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Mount Vernon. The Johns Hopkins University rehabilitated four apartment buildings adjacent to the Homewood campus.

In many of these cases, the institutions had the option of demolition, yet they decided that preservation made both aesthetic and fiscal sense.

In another year, when Historic Baltimore considers awards for 1993, it can choose from projects that include Camden Station and the B&O Warehouse, both of which were restored for the construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Also completed by that time will be the Orchard Street Church, an old sanctuary built by slaves, that will become headquarters for the Urban League.

These latter projects were all done with public financing and begun before the extent of the recession was evident. Would they have been funded today or would architects have been ordered to find short-cuts? That's not clear yet. But the adaptive reuse of those buildings ought to be a reminder that saving and modifying landmark structures often is a realistic development alternative.

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