Peabody building could be saved by $1, 99-year lease

June 21, 1996|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

The home of Baltimore's once-famous Peabody Book Shop and Beer Stube on the market for $1?

It sounds too good to be true, but it's no joke.

Facing stiff opposition to their plan to demolish the three-story building at 913 N. Charles St., the owners say they'd be willing to lease it for 99 years for $1 to anyone with a sound rehabilitation plan and the resources to carry it out.

William Sammons, an attorney representing the owners, notified Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation in a letter this month that the owners will consider all offers for the vacant building, which housed the book shop and its predecessors from the 1920s to the mid-1980s.

The owners -- a local group called 913 North Charles Limited Partnership -- also "would be willing to consider undertaking the management of a rehabilitation project" if public funds are available to pay for it, said Sammons, an attorney with Tydings and Rosenberg.

Built in 1869, the building has been vacant for nearly a decade. When it was a bookstore and tavern, patrons included writers H. L. Mencken and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Despite the latest offer, the owners still are seeking permission from the city to raze the building, on the grounds that it is structurally unsound and is not economically feasible to renovate.

Because the building is in a city historic district, it may not be razed without approval from the preservation commission. The commission will hold a public hearing today on the demolition permit application.

The hearing will begin at 1: 30 p.m. in the third-floor conference room at 417 E. Fayette St. To receive permission to tear the Peabody building down, the owners must demonstrate that maintaining the building would be an economic hardship.

One wrinkle to the lease offer is that the current owners would retain ownership of the land under the building. If the building is removed for any reason by the purchasers of the lease, under their plan, the land would revert to the owners.

The offer was greeted with enthusiasm this week by the executive committee of the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Improvement Association, which opposes the demolition. Community leaders said they were optimistic that a group would emerge to save the property and add new life to the corridor, known as "Restaurant Row."

In recent weeks, several groups have expressed interest in developing properties around the Peabody building.

Pub Date: 6/21/96

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