Community to have say in police station use

Residents to help pick Northern District plan

June 21, 2000|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Community comment will weigh heavily in choosing among three proposals for redeveloping the Northern District police station building in Hampden, city officials said yesterday.

Charles Graves, director of city planning, said the proposals - one involving a Heritage Savings bank and two for primarily residential use - received by Friday's deadline were "pretty strong." Public comment will be heard next month during a hearing in Hampden on the proposals.

"We will listen to community thoughts," said Graves, who serves on the Northern District Re-Use Committee. Other factors in deciding on a plan, he added, were "the ability [of developers] to carry out the project, their wherewithal. We'll see how solid they are and how soon they can move. Also, we'll consider what is the highest and best use for that piece of property."

The 101-year-old red brick police station resembles a castle, complete with stables, and city officials say they aim to preserve the vintage look.

"It's a piece of Baltimore Victoria," said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corporation, also on the decision-making panel. Brodie said he was pleased each candidate had proposed mixed usage of the site.

Along with a bank, the "Heritage Village Centre" plan calls for a bistro and garden.

Another plan proposes 23 living units in the Hampden rowhouse style, and 11,000-square-feet of space suitable for offices or art galleries.

The third plan features 38 residential units and a coffee bar with cafM-i seating outdoors on Keswick Avenue.

The review panel, which will also consist of several community representatives, will meet with each of the development teams over the summer and then choose one of the proposals in September.

Brodie said the panel will not rely on strict cost-benefit analysis in making its decision. "We don't do the mathematical approach in evaluating each aspect of design and financing."

He said he was glad to see housing proposals among the choices because "it's a strong neighborhood."

The one-acre property on 3355 Keswick Road, which has been an anchor for the community - and served as last year's "Halloween House" - is being considered for city historical landmark status.

On 34th Street, lifelong residents who have always known the building as a police station peered from their porches at their old neighbor yesterday and contemplated a new life for it.

Sharon Burke, 54, remembers the giant Christmas tree there every year when she was a girl. She said she hoped residential units would be condominiums rather than apartments for "a better clientele."

Jim Pollock, a metal artist who made his own turquoise bench swing, said he would welcome some artistic use of the space.

And Tom Thompson, proprietor of the nearby Coffee Mill, said the outdoor cafM-i idea might not work in Hampden.

"It's a nice concept and would look good in San Francisco. I'm not sure the neighborhood is urban enough," he said.

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