City to review museum ideas

Conference center, school and law office are among proposals

February 20, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

Portions of Baltimore's dormant City Life Museums property could be reopened as a museum, an urban inn and conference center, a school for youths with learning disabilities, law offices and a beer garden, depending on which ideas the city accepts.

City housing officials said yesterday that they received four proposals in response to their request for bids from groups that want to own or lease six properties that were part of the Baltimore City Life Museums, a collection of city-owned attractions that closed in June 1997 because of financial problems. All are located just north of Little Italy on the east side of President Street, in an area known as Museum Row.

Baltimore's housing department sought proposals last year as a way to identify prospective users for the properties and help rejuvenate the east side of downtown. Bids were due yesterday.

Two groups offered to reopen the historic Charles Carroll Mansion at 800 E. Lombard St. as a public museum.

City officials say they will review the proposals and confer with community representatives. They say they hope to select one or more developers within the next several months.

The proposals included:

School and museum: Pressley Ridge Schools, a nonprofit human services agency with local headquarters at 805 E. Fayette St., and a "to-be-formed" private group called the Charles Carroll Mansion of Baltimore Foundation proposed acquiring all of the properties except Brewer's Park.

Pressley Ridge Schools would convert the Blaustein Exhibition Center into a school for children with learning disabilities or emotional problems. There also would be space for other Pressley Ridge programs, such as family preservation and "therapeutic foster care." Pressley Ridge also would run the Shot Tower and Shot Tower Park as a public attraction.

The foundation would reopen the Carroll Mansion, working with the Maryland Historical Society to refurnish the house with the same pieces that were in place before the museum closed in 1997.

Pressley Ridge would agree to cover the cost of utilities, interior maintenance and exterior upkeep for the Carroll Mansion and other museum buildings for a "start up" period of five years. Developer Jay French, a Pressley Ridge board member, is a consultant to the bidders. Cho, Wilks and Benn would be the architects, and Southway Builders would be the contractor.

The plan has backing from a powerful coalition of consultants, including Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, Maryland Historical Society executive director Dennis Fiori, and Star-Spangled Banner Flag House director Sally Johnston.

Conference center, urban inn and museums: Roland and Anne Pomykala of Stevenson proposed acquiring all the properties for uses related to meetings and tourism. They would turn the four-story Blaustein Exhibition Center into a conference center, with a restaurant and a branch for the African Art Museum of Maryland, which is based in Columbia.

The 1840 House and Urban Archaeology Center would be converted into a 15-room bed-and-breakfast. The Carroll Mansion and Shot Tower would be operated as museums. Jeffery A. Lees would be the architect.

Anne Pomykala said she now operates Gramercy Mansion, a 10-room bed and breakfast operation and meeting facility at 1400 Greenspring Valley Road in Baltimore County. Profits from the income-producing properties on Museum Row would be used to help maintain the museums, she explained.

Law offices for Kandel & Associates P. A., a general practice law firm now at 100 Light St.: According to partner Peter Kandel, the law firm, with 16 employees, would move its offices to the former Blaustein Exhibition Center and use its adjacent warehouse and never-opened orientation center for file storage.

The property would be owned by a corporation headed by Kandel's wife, Marion Kandel. Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse would be the contractor.

Brewery expansion and beer garden: The Baltimore Brewing Co., headed by Theo deGroen. DeGroen runs the 10-year-old Baltimore Brewing Co. on Albemarle Street and bid only for the Brewer's Park property next to it, at Lombard and President streets.

The brewing company has had a month-to-month lease for the park since early 1997. DeGroen said he wants to acquire the property to provide outdoor seating for the restaurant, a beer garden and 1,700 square feet of expansion space for the brewery. Murphy & Dittenhafer would be the architect, and Acme Builders would be the contractor.

Pub Date: 2/20/99

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