Tower eyed as hotel at Hopkins

URBAN LANDSCAPE

Conversion: A vacant building that served as housing for the elderly is being considered for new uses.

January 07, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

ONE OF THE TALLEST buildings in East Baltimore, the 22-story Broadway tower that once was housing for the elderly at Fayette Street and Broadway, might be converted to Baltimore's newest hotel, if a private group can persuade the city's housing authority to support the project.

The vacant tower also might be reopened as housing for the elderly or it might be demolished, depending on what proposals the city receives in the next two months.

The 7-acre parcel occupies a key site along Broadway between the Fells Point waterfront and the Johns Hopkins medical campus. Although it has deficiencies that make it unsuitable to house elderly and disabled residents, they could be corrected if someone were willing to invest the money. The tower is less than 30 years old and many of its rooms feature sweeping views of Baltimore's waterfront and downtown skyline.

Baltimore Housing Authority Executive Director Daniel P. Henson III said the city has been notified it is eligible to receive a $2.8 million federal grant to help take down the tower and 99 townhouses around it, to prepare the land for redevelopment.

The housing authority has selected a developer, Landex Management Corp. of Warwick, R.I., to rebuild the low-rise portion of the property with about 85 "cooperative" residences, offering homeownership for eligible residents.

But before the city moves ahead with demolition of the tower, Henson said, he is waiting to receive proposals from two groups that have expressed interest in renovating it.

One group, he said, is a hospitality chain that wants to convert the building to an all-suites hotel serving people who have business with Johns Hopkins medical institutions and want to stay overnight close to Hopkins' East Baltimore campus.

Several years ago, Hopkins tore down a Sheraton hotel at Orleans Street and Broadway to make way for development on its campus. Henson said he could not identify the prospective developer except to say it is a national chain that wants to open a hotel close to Hopkins.

A second group, Henson said, wants to turn the building into housing for elderly residents who need assistance from nursing professionals and others. Henson again said he could not identify the prospective developer but that it was a for-profit company with experience in the field.

The 330-unit Broadway tower and 99 houses were designed by Cochran, Stephenson & Donkervoet of Baltimore and built in the early 1970s at a cost of $6.3 million. The housing authority began relocating tenants from the tower more than a year ago and it is vacant. Only half of the low-rise houses are occupied. Henson said the housing authority will begin relocating the remaining residents by the end of the year so redevelopment can begin early next year.

The housing authority formally sought proposals for renovating the tower once before and received none. Henson said its deficiencies include small elevators that can't accommodate a stretcher, tiny units, insufficient heating systems and no central air conditioning. The only way it could be reused, he said, is if it were substantially altered.

Henson said he has given both groups until March 15 to submit proposals for the tower. If either submits a viable redevelopment plan, he said, the housing authority will advertise for competing bids and award the tower to the group that submits what is considered the best offer.

If the housing authority receives no viable offers for the Broadway tower, Henson said, the agency will move ahead with plans to demolish it, using the designated federal funds. After the tower is demolished, he said, he would be inclined to combine the land beneath it, about 1 acre, with the property awarded to Landex, to create one redevelopment site for low-rise cooperative housing.

Baltimore to be site of housing conference

Baltimore will be the host city for a national training conference sponsored by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Public Housing Investments. "Hope VI: Creating Communities of Opportunity" is the title of the conference, which is expected to bring 500 housing specialists to Baltimore between Monday and Jan. 15. Hope VI is the name of a federal program that awards funds for public housing.

Visionary art museum sets workshop Saturday

The American Visionary Art Museum will hold a free workshop and idea exchange at 1 p.m. Saturday for artists, builders and others who might like to participate in a "kinetic sculpture race" that will be held in and around Baltimore's Inner Harbor this spring, using "human-powered" vehicles that can travel on land and sea and are also works of art. Speakers will outline plans for the event and answer questions from prospective entrances. Information: 410-244-1900.

Pub Date: 1/07/99

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