Fells Point's landmark warehouse will be razed

October 09, 1992|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

After months of deliberation and community debate, Baltimore housing officials have issued a demolition permit for the Terminal Warehouse, one of the largest and most visible buildings within the Fells Point historic district.

Housing Department spokesman Bill Toohey confirmed that Housing Commissioner Robert Hearn this week issued the permit to allow the building's owner, Constellation Real Estate .. Inc., to raze the six-story warehouse at 1601 Thames St.

Dating from the early 1900s and originally used to store cargo shipped through the Port of Baltimore, the brick and stone building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Constellation, which is the real estate development arm of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., sought permission to raze the building after deciding that any possible conversion would not be economically feasible.

Constellation officials said they will create a combination parking lot and waterfront park to occupy the 1.3-acre site until the real estate market improves and they are able to move ahead with a replacement project. They argued that removal of the warehouse would open up the waterfront and make it more attractive to businesses.

Kent Johnson, assistant vice president of Constellation, said he is still awaiting city permission to close off part of Thames Street while the demolition work is under way. He said Constellation has hired Potts & Callahan to take down the building and expects the firm to begin work by the end of this month. The demolition will take eight to 10 weeks to complete, he added.

Constellation controls 12 acres along the Fells Point waterfront, including the Brown's Wharf office and retail complex at Thames Street and Broadway.

While considering options for the warehouse, Constellation officials worked closely with community residents and agreed to "stabilize" two other historic and vacant buildings that the company controls in Fells Point. They are the George Wells House and the London Coffee House, both at Bond and Thames streets.

Constellation also agreed to document the warehouse photographically, conduct an archaeological excavation, retain part of the warehouse foundation and provide public access along the waterfront from Brown's Wharf to Caroline Street.

In all, Constellation will spend "several hundred thousand dollars" to complete the work, Mr. Johnson said. He added that the dialogue between Constellation and Fells Point residents was constructive and helped result in a plan that satisfies all parties.

"There are always going to be some people who will say it's a fabulous building," said Carolyn Donkervoet, executive director of the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point.

But she said that Constellation's representatives "have been working with community residents for a number of months. Their commitment to stabilize the London Coffee House and the George Wells House, I think, relieved a lot of people who were concerned about Constellation's long-range plans. It showed their intentions are honorable."

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