Another landmark city building? Hecht's: The Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation has approved adding the old eight-story department store on Howard Street to its list of official Baltimore landmarks.

Urban Landscape

August 13, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

HECHT CO.'s former flagship department store at Howard and Lexington streets is likely to become Baltimore's newest landmark.

Members of Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) voted unanimously this week to add the eight-story building at 118 N. Howard St. to their list of official city landmarks.

The panel's action must be approved by the Planning Commission, City Council and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke before the building can be declared a landmark.

If the other officials concur with the preservationists, as is usually the case with landmark designations, the 1924 structure will become the third department store building to receive landmark status in Baltimore, along with the 1888 Hutzler Bros. "Palace building" and the 1932 Hutzler Bros. Tower building, both also on Howard Street.

The city has 150 individually designated landmarks and 19 historic districts.

Landmark designation for the Hecht building was sought by Southern Management Corp., a Virginia-based firm that has a contract to buy it. Southern wants to convert it to a 175-unit apartment building with street-level retail space -- the first such conversion in Baltimore.

David Hillman,, Southern's chairman, told the commissioners that his organization is seeking tax credits for historic preservation as part of its financing strategy, and that the building needs city, state and federal landmark status to qualify.

"The numbers don't work without the historic tax credits," he said.

Hillman said he has been impressed with the cooperation and assistance he has received from city officials. "We've worked in Montgomery and Prince George's counties primarily, and Baltimore is a breath of fresh air," he said. "The rest of the state could do well to take a few pointers."

CHAP chairman Judith Miller said the Hecht's conversion is an important project. "We're thrilled that we're going to see some use out of that building," she said. "It means a lot to us."

Designed by Smith and May of Baltimore, the building weaves together the history of three retailers. It was constructed by the Bernheimer-Leader Store and sold in 1927 to May Co., a retailer based in the Midwest. May expanded the building in 1941 and 1948 and remodeled much of the interior.

In 1958, May merged with Hecht Co. More renovations were completed in 1959 and 1960, and a garage was added in 1965. In 1985, Hecht's converted the top three floors to office space. Several years later, Hecht's closed the store permanently.

Preservation planner Edward Leon said the building qualifies for landmark designation because it is an "excellent example of early 20th-century commercial architecture" and illustrates "the Classical Revival style of architecture" as influenced by the "Chicago School skyscraper movement."

Hillman said the company plans to restore the exterior but wants to create an interior atrium on the south side by removing portions of floors two through eight. Sixty percent of the apartments will face the street, and 40 percent will have views into the atrium. A garage for about 100 cars may be created in the basement. Monthly rents will range from $700 to $1,100, including utilities.

Architects are Collins and Kronstadt of Silver Spring with Mary Werner DeNadai of John Milner Architects in Chadds Ford, Pa. Southern is paying "a little less than $5 million" for the building and expects to spend "between $9.5 million and $11 million" on the renovation, Hillman said.

Hillman said Southern hopes to begin work early next year and be finished by mid-2000.

"We're going to do it right," he told the preservation panel. "We have no reason not to."

Two new members named to city's design panel

Two new members have been appointed to Baltimore's Design Advisory Panel, as part of its reorganization under the city Planning Department.

They are: Melvin Mitchell, director of the Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning at Morgan State University, and Eliot Rhodeside, a landscape architect and principal in the firm of Rhodeside/Harwell of Alexandria, Va.

Mitchell and Rhodeside will join Phoebe Stanton, Walter Ramberg, Mario Schack and Reg Griffith on the six-member panel, replacing retired members John Hill and Thomas Vint.

Effective next month, the Design Advisory Panel will be the sole design review group in the city. The Architectural Review Board will no longer meet.

Downtown projects that the board would have seen will be presented to the Design Advisory Panel.

Pub Date: 8/13/98

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