Recycling a landmark

URBAN LANDSCAPE

Building: A committee has suggested new uses for Baltimore's Northern District police station, which turns 100 this fall and is to be replaced by early next year.

June 24, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

BALTIMORE'S Northern District police station will turn 100 years old this fall, and residents of the surrounding areas want to make sure the building survives for many more.

Last weekend, community representatives met with city planners, architects, preservationists and developers to explore ways that the Victorian landmark might be recycled after it is replaced by a police station under construction in the 2200 block of W. Cold Spring Lane.

During the three-hour meeting, they suggested a number of possible uses for the property, from housing to a health club to "incubator space" for start-up companies affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University.

While some participants said an addition from the 1960s might be demolished to accommodate a new use, all recommended that the original police station be preserved as part of any development. Some suggested that the property be connected to the Hopkins campus by a pedestrian bridge through Wyman Park, to improve access between the Hampden neighborhood and Hopkins.

The bridge could be designed and built as "a hands-on project of the engineering department" at Hopkins, suggested Bob Field, a meeting participant. "I can think of a number of campuses, such as Cornell, where suspension bridges are used to span gulches."

Planning consultant Al Barry of A. B. Associates coordinated the meeting Saturday, which was convened by Greater Homewood Community Corp. and paid for by the Abell Foundation and others. Participants included residents from Wyman Park and Hampden and business owners from the Hampden Village Merchants Association.

The community held the meeting because residents wanted to be able to recommend what should happen with the police station rather than wait for an unsolicited proposal, said Odette Ramos, director of neighborhood programs for Greater Homewood. "This gives the community a chance to see what's possible and have a say in what happens," she said.

The session also will benefit prospective developers by identifying which ideas the community will support and which ideas it won't, Barry said.

Designed by architect Henry Brauns and opened in fall 1899, the building at 3355 Keswick Road is the oldest police station in use in Baltimore and an anchor for Hampden.

Distinguished by its turret roofs, captain's walk and stained-glass windows, the red-brick building has brownstone trim and a granite base. It was designed to include police offices, a magistrate's court and a 16-cell jail. Living quarters were originally on the second level, while the third floor served as a gymnasium and drill room. A courtyard and stables for 44 horses were added about 1927. The '60s addition serves as a juvenile detention center.

Suggested uses included:

13 residences for sale or rent.

A 19-bed "assisted living" center for elderly residents, possibly with medical facilities on the premises.

A development with shops, offices and a courtyard cafe.

High-technology incubator space for start-up businesses connected with Hopkins, possibly with a telecommuting center.

Other ideas included a health club, a bed-and-breakfast operation, a day care center, artists' studios, and a new location for the Hampden library.

Residents indicated they did not want low-income housing, a full-fledged nursing home or uses that generate heavy traffic. If the '60s addition is razed, they said, any new building should rise no taller than nearby townhouses.

The new Northern District police station is expected to open by early next year. Ramos said concepts and ideas that came out of the planning session will be circulated throughout the community and incorporated into a formal "request for proposals" that the city will issue to guide redevelopment of the property after the Police Department declares it surplus.

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