Rowhouses demolished for CVS drugstore

Protesters say company wanted to avoid hearing

January 07, 2000|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

By afternoon yesterday, six dilapidated rowhouses at 25th and Charles streets were reduced to rubble, clearing space for a CVS drugstore which some Charles Villagers have denounced as a tear in the community's urban fabric.

The speedy demolition of the remaining six of 10 empty rowhouses effectively ended a long-running saga in Charles Village. A handful of protesters accused CVS/pharmacy of moving ahead to avoid a Jan. 19 court hearing to determine whether zoning laws are being properly followed.

Nonetheless, they vowed to keep the court date, even with an empty lot in place of buildings they had wanted to preserve.

City officials said a permit to demolish the 10 rowhouses on the "book block" -- long associated with bookstores -- was granted late last year and yesterday's completion work was legal.

A CVS spokesman acknowledged the demolition pressed ahead in spite of the court challenge.

"We've been negotiating for two to three years. We've been as flexible as we can," said Mike DeAngelis, a CVS spokesman at corporate headquarters in Rhode Island. "At some point, we have to say, `We're going forward with our project.' "

He described the protesters as "a very vocal minority."

Though they failed to save the rowhouse facades, community residents led by Douglas Armstrong wrestled some design concessions from CVS. DeAngelis said the two-tier 10,000-square-foot store will have landscaping and a street corner clock tower, "different from our standard prototype."

Armstrong, a community resident, has spent more than a year waging a nearly single-handed struggle against removal of the rowhouses. His ally, Laura Malick of Waverly, says it is an issue of "our community under siege."

However, the executive director of the Charles Village Benefits District, Dan Klocke, said while his group supported saving the facades, it does not want to oppose business investment in south Charles Village.

In court, residents hope to address zoning and protection for residents who want to maintain the Victorian-style rowhouses in the North Baltimore neighborhood.

Armstrong's group maintains that Charles Village is a "parking-lot" district, which means buildings cannot be razed so that parking lots can be constructed without an ordinance signed by the mayor and City Council. Four buildings in the same block have been demolished for the drugstore's parking lot.

The group was unable to raise money to post a $2.5 million bond set by Baltimore Circuit Judge Gary L. Strausberg to stay the demolition.

Not everyone in the area was attached to the rowhouses, which some say housed unlawful activity. "So glad to see it go," said locksmith John Phillips, owner of a shop across the street. "It was nothing but a real pain in the neighborhood."

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