Drug chain unmoved by protest

CVS plans to demolish Charles Village buildings

April 13, 1999|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Over the objections of some preservationists, CVS Corp. will go ahead with a plan to demolish 10 Victorian buildings at Charles and West 25th streets to open a drugstore in the commercial heart of Charles Village.

The decision follows months of discussions between CVS officials and neighborhood activists, who tried to convince the drug chain that saving the facades of the street-corner rowhouses would be in the best interest of the business and the community.

Domenic Schiavone, a real estate manager for Rhode Island-based CVS, said keeping any remnant of the buildings would prove too costly. "The numbers just don't make the [facade] project feasible."

He confirmed yesterday that despite a last-minute faxed appeal from a Charles Village resident, CVS will build an 8,900-square-foot drugstore on the intersection's northwest corner.

Demolition will begin as soon as city permits are issued, and construction should be done by the end of the year, Schiavone said.

Alfred W. Barry, a consultant who prepared a master plan for Charles Village in 1997, said the news was "unfortunate but not unexpected. It's clearly at odds with the principles of the Charles Village master plan."

"Chains have their suburban model that they try to impose on historic urban neighborhoods, and there's bound to be a collision between architectural heritage and large corporations," Barry said.

Schiavone said four of the buildings, on the Charles Street side, are condemned. The other six buildings slated for demolition need restoration, and most are empty.

Charles Graves, the city's director of planning, said yesterday the decision by CVS was "disappointing to us." However, he added, "They're going to take their final design out to the community."

The CVS design proposal included a two-story clock tower and a brick-and-stone building which, Schiavone said, "doesn't break up the streetscape."

The Charles Village CVS -- the 34th CVS store in Baltimore -- will cost nearly $200,000 more than the standard store.

"It isn't your typical CVS," Schiavone said.

Doug Armstrong, a film location scout and a critic of the CVS demolition plan, accused the chain's officials of playing a "numbers game" in which money outweighed residents' concerns. "They obviously have no concern about community goodwill," Armstrong said.

Frank Jannuzi, president of the Charles Village Community Benefits District, was more conciliatory. "There was a healthy dialogue, and we are delighted to have investment in Charles Village," Jannuzi said.

"Ideally, we would preserve more of the historic facades," he said. "If Charles Village wants to have a more decisive voice, we need a legal mechanism to empower the community."

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