Queen Ann Belvedere restored

Architecture

May 28, 2001|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

The Queen Anne Belvedere row of apartments on North Charles Street is one of the most historic places to live in Baltimore - a rare, intact block of late Victorian architecture.

It's also one of the most up-to-date places to live, following an $8 million restoration and modernization that has prepared it for occupancy by a new generation of residents.

At 10 a.m. on Thursday, Gov. Parris N. Glendening will preside over a ribbon-cutting ceremony that will mark substantial completion of 18 months of reconstruction in the 1200 block of N. Charles St.

The 100,000-square-foot development is one block south of the University of Baltimore's campus. It includes 76 apartments featuring such modern amenities as high-speed computer links and energy-efficient appliances, plus eight street-level commercial spaces and nearby parking for 50 cars.

The Charles and Biddle street facades look much the same as they did when the row was constructed in the late 1880s. And that was very much the intent of the development team, known as the Queen Anne Belvedere Revitalization Limited Partnership.

"It was the partnership's goal to maintain the character of the 19th-century buildings while incorporating the conveniences of the 21st century," said managing partner Stanley Keyser.

Many people want to live in historic buildings but don't want to give up the creature comforts found in new construction, Keyser said. "Our historic restoration project combines the best of both worlds."

Keyser said 70 apartments have been created on the upper levels of the even-numbered buildings from 1200 to 1224 N. Charles St. and six are in carriage houses behind the main row. He said 15 apartments have been reserved in the one week since leasing began, and the initial residents will move in starting June 1. Seven of the eight retail spaces have been taken, including a restaurant, dry cleaner and hair salon.

"We're renting at the rate of two to three a day," he said of the apartments. "The more finished the project is, the more willing people are to commit" to a lease.

The Queen Anne Belvedere is the first large-scale residential project undertaken with the direct involvement of University Properties, a nonprofit subsidiary of the University of Baltimore's Educational Foundation. Kann and Associates was the architect. South- way Builders was the general contractor. C. A. Lindman Inc. of Laurel was the stone restoration specialist.

The apartments are designed for students, young professionals, empty nesters and others seeking affordable housing in midtown. Work included installation of new heating, air conditioning, electrical wiring and plumbing, a second elevator and a sprinkler system. Monthly rents range from $495 for an efficiency to $1,250 for a three-bedroom apartment.

Keyser, who also heads Keyser Development Corp., said the Queen Anne Belvedere team will be completing work over the next month, including new lighting and landscaping along Charles Street, a midblock courtyard, and final touches to the historic facades, including an at-grade lobby at 1214 N. Charles St.

"It's been a labor of love," he said. "It's a beautiful rebirth."

Griffin goes to Gearhart

Tyler Gearhart, executive director of Preservation Maryland, is this year's recipient of the Golden Griffin Award, bestowed annually by the Baltimore Architecture Foundation for "outstanding contributions to the architecture of Baltimore."

Preservation Maryland's biggest success recently has been on the west side of downtown Baltimore, where the O'Malley administration has adopted a development strategy that aims to preserve buildings that are considered historically and architectur- ally significant.

Endangered Senator

Another historic building that may soon receive national attention is the Senator Theatre, the art deco movie palace on York Road that dates from 1939.

Even though it has been restored and is in good operating condition, the theater is reportedly a contender for inclusion on the "11 Most Endangered Places" list compiled annually by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Theater owner Tom Kiefaber has been waging a battle against large theater chains for the right to show blockbusters such as "Pearl Harbor," and says independent theaters such as his often are prevented from showing what they want by giant competitors. He warns that current movie distribution practices, if not changed, could eventually force historic theaters to go out of business even if they are physically sound.

Kiefaber tried to get the theater on the trust's endangered list in 1999, but the west side of downtown Baltimore was included instead. He declined last week to comment on the possibility of making the 2001 list, but the Senator's Web site contains a link to a New York Times article that identifies it as a candidate. A spokeswoman for the trust said she could not state whether the Senator will be included until the list is released in late June.

Announcement of the listing is accompanied by a television documentary on the History Channel that outlines the 11 places and why they are endangered. Few of the buildings included on the endangered list have ever been torn down.

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