City officials solicit builders for plans for Recreation Pier

Open house set for today

developers have until Dec. 30 to submit ideas

`Important and wonderful site'

October 28, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore symbol since it was built in 1914, the Recreation Pier in Fells Point is about to undergo another change.

City officials are inviting developers to submit proposals for the magisterial building at 1715 Thames St. Made of brick and Indiana limestone, it is 85 feet by 145 feet and includes a pier stretching 500 feet into the harbor.

The city opened the pier to provide docking and cargo storage space for products such as tobacco, paper and pulp. It also housed an office for the harbor master and was a venue for recreational activities. English language classes were offered there to Polish immigrants, and a second-floor ballroom was at the time one of the largest meeting places in Baltimore.

In its most recent incarnation, the storied building was depicted as Baltimore police headquarters on the 1990s NBC television series Homicide: Life on the Street.

The show made the building one of the city's most nationally recognizable places, but it has been mostly vacant since the series ended.

Today, city officials will hold an open house for developers, who will have until Dec. 30 to present ideas.

"We're looking for a viable concept and for someone to work with the city and community," said Robert F. Pipik, director of asset management for the Department of Housing and Community Development. "We hope creative minds can balance all these needs."

The historic nature of the architecture must be preserved, officials say. Early next year, one developer will be given exclusive negotiating rights with the city for four months.

"In that time, we'll finalize the plan, negotiate and have the developer seek financing for that plan," Pipik said.

The pier needs stabilizing and repair, at an estimated cost of $3 million to $4 million, city documents show. That would be the responsibility of the developer.

Given the Recreation Pier's history and its location in a community that is a magnet for visitors, city officials want to ensure an appropriate future for the property.

"It's an important and wonderful site, and we're looking at how it can be used for various needs the 21st century is presenting," Pipik said.

And, he noted, "The pier is going to fall down if we don't do something about it."

The building still bears the cosmetic makeover done for the TV series, and a plaque commemorating the program.

"We continue to get queries about the building roof, where the [show's] detectives would go to reflect on their problems," said Kevin Brown, a housing spokesman. "It has a great harbor view that you can't miss."

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