Two historic buildings in danger


Demolition: A wrecking ball is being aimed at a pair of Redwood Street structures dating from the early 1900s.

June 17, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

DOWNTOWN Baltimore's west side might have been named one of America's 11 most endangered places this week, but a portion of the city's financial district might disappear first if local officials don't stop the wrecking ball.

Two vacant buildings on Redwood Street in danger of demolition are:

The former Fairfax Savings and Loan Building, a four-story structure at 17 Light St. Designed by Charles E. Cassell, the building was one of the first constructed after the 1904 fire in downtown Baltimore. Characterized by its red brick and terra-cotta trim, it was originally known as the Merchants and Miners Transportation Co. building.

The former Sun Life Insurance Co. building, a six-story structure built in 1916 at 101-109 E. Redwood St. Designed by Louis Levi and distinguished by an ornate stone front, the building rises six stories and is considered "an important element of the streetscape" along Redwood Street, according to Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.

A Bethesda-based developer, Donald J. Urgo & Associates, plans to buy and demolish both buildings and construct a 125-suite, extended-stay hotel -- possibly a Marriott Residence Inn or comparable hotel -- on the site.

Urgo representatives could not be reached for comment.

A design has not been released, but Baltimore's Design Advisory Panel is scheduled to review preliminary plans next week. The designers are Sullivan Architecture of Valhalla, N.Y., and Rubeling & Associates Inc. of Towson.

The buildings fall within Baltimore's Business and Government historic district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That listing, however, cannot prevent demolition, and the buildings are not protected by local landmark designation that would lead Baltimore's preservation commission to review demolition plans.

City redevelopment officials tried to persuade the developers to save at least the 109 E. Redwood St. building and incorporate it into the proposed hotel. They say the developers studied that option but decided it was unworkable and are proceeding with plans to raze both buildings.

Andrew Frank, executive vice president of Baltimore Development Corp., said his office concurs with the developers' assessment that the two buildings can't be easily adapted to meet the needs of the hotel, especially because the site has no room for on-site parking.

But Frank said that before the developers can obtain demolition permits for the buildings, they must provide evidence of financing for the proposed hotel and receive design approval from the city.

This is the first time the two Redwood Street buildings have been considered for demolition. The city has issued a demolition permit for the Southern Hotel at 7-11 Light St. to make way for a hotel and office tower.

Property owners also have proposed demolishing the former USF&G Corp. headquarters at 131 E. Redwood St. for a planned garage and office tower.

Fred Shoken, past president of Baltimore Heritage, a local preservation advocacy group, said Redwood Street is significant because it includes one of the most intact rows of Baltimore buildings dating from the early 1900s.

Between Charles and South streets, Redwood Street is among the few places where people can walk and "really get a feeling of early 20th-century Baltimore," Shoken said. "Once they start tearing buildings down, you won't have that feeling anymore. Anything that's demolished along that stretch really damages the character of the area."

Jazz duo to play tomorrow in `Cool Places' series

The Marty Ehrlich-Myra Melford Duo will perform at 8 p.m. tomorrow at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 1900 St. Paul St., as part of the "Jazz in Cool Places" concert series sponsored by Baltimore Heritage and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation.

Tickets are $18 in advance ($12 for students with valid identification) or $20 at the door. Information: 410-235-9733.

Pub Date: 6/17/99

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