Morgan State plans arts center ' Great project': After patients are moved from Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital, arts center is to be built nearby on Northeast Baltimore site.

Urban Landscape

February 22, 1996|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

FOR SEVEN decades, the land at 2201 Argonne Drive in Northeast Baltimore has been occupied by a medical institution, most recently known as the Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital.

Within a few years, it is scheduled to become the site of a $31 million fine arts center for Morgan State University, including a 1,270-seat performance hall.

This week, state officials interviewed five architectural teams under consideration to design the building to house programs in the performing and visual arts.

If funds are allocated by the General Assembly, the fine arts center will be constructed by mid-1998 on land near the hospital, which dates from 1924.

Vincent P. Cucchiella, director of facilities planning for Morgan State, said administrators envision a regional arts center that will have high visibility and serve the entire community.

"You'll see it from a distance because it's at the high point of the site," he said. "We're looking for it to become a landmark and really anchor the campus."

Montebello has been part of the University of Maryland Medical System since 1992.

The property became available for use by Morgan State when the medical system, which operates Montebello and James Lawrence Kernan Hospital near Woodlawn, decided to combine their functions at Kernan.

Patients at Montebello will move this spring into the $30 million, 128-bed William Donald Schaefer Rehabilitation Center, which is nearing completion at Kernan.

Maryland's Board of Public Works has approved plans to turn the soon-to-be-vacated Montebello building over to Morgan State for use as administrative and academic space.

Adjacent land will be used to build the 114,000-square-foot fine arts center, which will replace the outmoded Murphy Fine Arts Center on Hillen Road.

In addition to the multipurpose performing space, it will contain a 300-seat theater, a 200-seat recital space, an art gallery and space for student instruction and practice.

Morgan State is Maryland's most prominent historically black university, with independent doctorate-granting authority. Its enrollment, which has increased sharply in recent years, is more than 6,000.

The design teams vying for the arts center commission are Allied Architects, a collaboration between Gaudreau Architects and BWJ Inc.; Zeidler Roberts Partnership Inc.; Richter Cornbrooks Gribble Inc. with Rothman Rothman Heineman; Cho Wilks and Benn with Barton Myers Associates; and Murphy & Dittenhafer. A decision will be made within a month.

Montebello opened as the 140-bed Sydenham Hospital, which was run by Baltimore to provide free care and confinement for patients with polio, measles, whooping cough and other diseases.

After it became a state hospital in 1953, its name was changed to Montebello to reflect the name of the nearby lake. It became part of the private University of Maryland Medical System in 1992, but the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene retained ownership of the 31.2-acre property.

Once Montebello closes, 18.5 acres will be turned over to the state Department of Education for use by Morgan State. The neighboring Maryland Rehabilitation Center, at 2301 Argonne Drive, will remain where it is.

More than $2.5 million has been appropriated to plan the arts center. The General Assembly will be asked to appropriate construction funds after a design is set.

Renovation of the 195,000-square-foot Montebello building, to be carried out in phases over several years, is expected to cost $12 million. Some wings are ready for immediate occupancy, however.

Charles Graves, director of Baltimore's planning department, heads a 60-member task force that has been formed to make sure Morgan State's plans are consistent with the city's goals for the area.

"We're looking not just at the internal campus, but how we can develop a partnership" between the university and surrounding neighborhoods, Mr. Graves said.

The arts center will help Morgan State increase its presence regionally while providing a better showcase for talented student groups such as the university's choir, Mr. Cucchiella said.

"It's a great project. With the master planning effort, we're really trying to reach out to the community," he said.

Brodie to discuss downtown development

M. Jay Brodie, the new president of the Baltimore Development Corp., will discuss the agency's efforts to rejuvenate Baltimore at the next "Business over Breakfast" meeting sponsored by the Downtown Partnership. It will be at the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel, 101 W. Fayette St., Wednesday at 8 a.m. For ticket information, call the partnership at 244-1030.

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