Brexton building for sale again

URBAN LANDSCAPE

Landmark: Investors who bought the turreted building on Park Avenue this year have decided to sell it at auction.

November 11, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

ONE OF BALTIMORE'S architectural gems, the Brexton apartments in Mount Vernon, is headed for the auction block.

Express Auction Marketing Specialists, headed by Larry Makowski, plans to sell the six-story brick building at 3 p.m. Wednesday in an auction on the premises at 868 Park Ave.

The sale is a sign that the owner, a local investment group known as Dakota Trade Associates, has decided not to restore the Victorian landmark, which opened in 1891 as a residential hotel and later was converted to 25 apartments. It was one of several locations where Wallis Warfield Simpson, who became the Duchess of Windsor, lived as a child.

Michael Catrino, an auctioneer with Express, said Dakota acquired the building this year and had planned to renovate the building as apartments for college students and others who want to be close to the Mount Royal cultural district. But Dakota shifted its attention to a project in Naples, Fla., and decided to sell the Brexton, he said. Catrino said he has had strong interest from prospective buyers, who can bid online before the auction or on the premises during the auction. "There's a tremendous need for more housing in that area," he said.

Because the building is in a historic district, restorers would qualify for tax credits for historic preservation, he said.

Vacant for more than a decade, the Brexton is the last major structure in the Mount Vernon area to sit boarded up. Designed by Charles E. Cassell, the architect of the old Stewart's department store on Howard Street and the former Stafford and Junker hotels, it is known for its distinctive turrets, spires and dormers.

"It's an incredible building," said Donna Beth Joy Shapiro, a local preservationist. "It's like a tall, skinny jewel box. When you're inside, you can imagine that it's 100 years ago."

Demolition permit pending for Redwood Street

Another Cassell design, the former Fairfax Savings and Loan building at 17 Light St., is one of two structures that would be torn down to make way for a new Marriott Residence Inn as soon as developers obtain a demolition permit for the project.

A Bethesda-based organization, Donald J. Urgo & Associates, has applied for permission to raze the Light Street building and its neighbor, the former Sun Life Insurance Co. building at 101-109 E. Redwood St., so it can build the 125-room hotel.

John Wesley, a spokesman for Baltimore's housing department, said yesterday that city officials have reviewed the application and are prepared to issue the demolition permits as soon as the developer provides the name of the demolition contractor.

Wesley said the permits could be issued this week. If that happens, preservationists would have 10 days to appeal the city's issuance of a demolition permit before it becomes final. Members of Preservation Maryland and other groups have tried to persuade city officials to save as much of Redwood Street as possible on the grounds that it is historically and architecturally significant.

Across Redwood Street, a group headed by J. Joseph Clarke Enterprises has begun demolition of the former Southern Hotel to make way for a $120 million, 35-story office and hotel complex.

That demolition work, shrouded in a black curtain designed to keep debris from falling onto streets and sidewalks, is slated for completion by early next year. Contractors have salvaged terra cotta tablets from the top of the hotel for reuse in the interior of the new building.

Maryland Institute is holding conference

"Rethinking the Work Environment," a daylong conference about the changing nature of the workplace and its impact on regional development, will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Mount Royal Station building of Maryland Institute, College of Art, Cathedral Street and Mount Royal Avenue in Baltimore. The registration fee is $95 and can be paid at the door. Information or registration: 410-225-2219.

Professor Colin Rowe, architect, historian, dies

Colin Rowe, a British-born architect, historian and professor of architecture who lectured recently at the University of Maryland School of Architecture, died of heart failure Friday in Arlington, Va. He was 79.

A driving force in architectural theory during the period after World War II, Rowe was the 1978-1979 Kea Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Maryland's architecture school. In the spring of 1998, he delivered a series of lectures there titled "Rowe on the Renaissance."

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