Crime-fighting relic gets a second chance through restoration

Historic police station now home to state office

August 12, 2002|By Brendan Kearney | Brendan Kearney,SUN STAFF

Just above the door, the big brass letters still read "Towson Station," a reminder of the days when Baltimore County police officers reported for duty at 308 Washington Ave.

But since Thomas and Hermes Rafailides, owners of Baltimore-based Raf Realty, purchased the 75-year-old Spanish Colonial-style building at auction in April 2000, change has been the order of the day at the former Towson precinct.

Police moved to the new Precinct 6 station at Bosley and Susquehanna avenues in January 2001; construction workers descended on the old building, which had become a cramped, dirty, crime-fighting relic, a year later. Today, the state Department of Juvenile Justice inhabits the building, home to a collection of offices and meeting rooms.

Reviews of the refurbished precinct station are uniformly positive. "It's a 180-degree difference," said Lt. Randy Guraleczka, who recalled plumbing problems and a mice infestation during his four years in the building. "It's just totally renovated really, from top to bottom. They did a nice job with it."

The rehabilitation project, which took five months and was completed in June, included new air conditioning, heating, plumbing and the addition of an outside elevator on the building's east wall.

In addition to other cosmetic improvements, the building also has been made accessible to the disabled, said John Diakoulas, president of Acropolis Construction Co. Inc., which oversaw the restoration process.

Because the building was placed on the county's historic landmarks list in 1991, modifications and improvements to the exterior must blend in with the original style. County codes allow slightly more leeway indoors, yet certain walls, window moldings and even doorknobs were left untouched, said Mary Smith, a management associate who has worked for the Department of Juvenile Justice for 15 years.

"It was very difficult because of the historic part because you had to make everything come together," said Diakoulas, referring to the integration of new elements into the architectural scheme of the original building.

Raf Realty purchased the building for $335,000 and spent an estimated $890,000 to renovate it, Smith said. But the developer is eligible for a 25 percent federal tax credit on the cost of improvements because the building is historic.

Martin Azola, a restoration contractor and historical consultant for the rehabilitation, lauds the government's commitment to historic structures.

"This tax credit program is a wonderful thing," said Azola. "They give you more money to do it right, so why not?"

The Department of Juvenile Justice, which has a 10-year lease on the building, is the beneficiary of the restoration effort. The department, which moved to its new home June 10, monitors juveniles on probation, provides counseling, offers substance abuse treatment and tracks restitution orders handed down by the courts.

Smith recalled walking into the building before the refurbishment project began. "You would walk in here and say, `There's no way we could have an office in here,' but I think it turned out nicely," she said.

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