Safeway is exploring Charles St. site

April 19, 1994|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Sun Staff Writer Staff writer Joan Jacobson contributed to this article.

Safeway Inc., the nation's third-largest supermarket chain, is exploring the possibility of building a store near Charles and 24th streets on a 2.5-acre site occupied by the former Baltimore Department of Education headquarters and the Chesapeake Cadillac building.

The plans for the 45,000-square-foot store, which will be presented to community leaders tomorrow night, have already sparked concerns about traffic, the effects on the surrounding residential community and the possible destruction of architecturally significant buildings.

Some residents "are violently opposed, and some are passively in support," said Baltimore City Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd. "I have to be sold on the site, because right now, I don't think it's a good idea."

However, supporters say the tentative plan would bring a much-needed grocery store to the area, along with providing jobs. "You couldn't ask for a better use," said Jeffrey F. Ballan, Chesapeake' Cadillac's president. "How many businesses do you see coming to the city?"

Mr. Ballan also stressed that the plans are very preliminary. "It's a look see is what it is," he said.

Meanwhile, a 35,680-square-foot supermarket is planned at Howard and 21st streets, only seven blocks away from the proposed Safeway store.

The Howard Street store is being developed by the V-3 Group Inc. and will probably operate under the name Shop and Save, according to Mario F. VillaSanta, president of V-3.

The company is now waiting for the city, which owns most of the property, to buy and demolish a building on the site before it begins construction, he said. The store would be open within a year of the start of construction, Mr. VillaSanta said.

The proposed Safeway plan calls for the demolishing of the Chesapeake Cadillac building and the old school administration headquarters, which consists of a series of buildings on 25th Street, according to John C. Deckard, a spokesman for Safeway. But a group of buildings at 25th and Charles -- which are of "Victorian-Moorish" design -- would be left intact, he said.

Safeway last year proposed a 62,500-square-foot supermarket in Canton at the former American Can Co. factory in the 2600 block of Boston Street.

The project is still progressing through city regulatory agencies, Mr. Deckard said.

The Chesapeake Cadillac build ing, which has sold luxury cars to Baltimore's rich and famous since the Depression, is one of the most distinctive buildings in the neighborhood, with its Art Deco design and carved eagles on its top corners. Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I flying ace, is said have played a role in site selection.

However, the building is not designated a historic structure, Mr. Ballan said.

The car dealership, which also sells Jaguars, opened a Cockeysville showroom last year. But Mr. Ballan at the time said the Charles Street location would probably stay open for the rest of this year.

The former Baltimore schools headquarters has been vacant for seven years, since the school system moved to North Avenue.

The buildings and grounds have deteriorated during that time, to the dismay of nearby businesses and homeowners.

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