Harbor to get new office, retail site

ARCHITECTURE

$10 million project aims to renovate Codd building

December 01, 2003|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

One of the industrial workhorses of Baltimore's waterfront will soon get a new life as a focal point of the burgeoning Harbor East community.

The E. J. Codd Co. building at 700 S. Caroline St., longtime home of a company that makes boilers and machinery, was sold recently to a group that plans to turn it into Baltimore's newest office and retail center.

Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse, known for its conversions of such historic structures as the former Bagby Furniture Co. building on Exeter Street and the American Can Co. complex on Boston Street, intends to invest $10 million to rehabilitate the original Codd building, which dates from 1881, and two additions completed in the early 1900s.

The exteriors will be restored in keeping with federal standards for historic preservation. The designer is W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, headed by Barbara Wilks.

The first tenant will be a restaurant by entrepreneur Tony Foreman and his wife, chef Cindy Wolf, co-owners of Charleston restaurant on Lancaster Street and Petit Louis Bistro on Roland Avenue.

The conversion is noteworthy because the 40,000-square-foot Codd complex is one of the oldest collection of buildings between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point and was not protected by individual landmark designation.

It might have been demolished to make way for a larger development, as many older structures near the shoreline have been in recent years. Within three blocks are several hundred condominiums under construction at prices of $500,000 and above.

But Struever Bros., working in partnership with H&S Properties Development Corp. on the 20-acre Harbor East community, saw an opportunity to save one of the last vestiges of Baltimore's working waterfront to complement the new buildings planned or under construction nearby.

The Codd building has a distinctive character that can help attract residents and others to the area, said Lawrence J. White, senior development director for Struever Bros. "It's part of the fabric of the community. It helps balance old and new."

"It's a good transition between Inner Harbor East and Fells Point," Wilks added. "It's one of the remaining historical buildings in the area. It's a corner property. It's important in keeping the scale of the area."

The building is named after Edward J. Codd, who ran a shop that fabricated riveted tanks and boilers for public schools and other buildings in Baltimore. After he died in 1909, his company was sold and the new owner, Henry H. Wiegand, expanded it to include steel fabrication for general industry and custom-made machinery. The Codd Company ceased operation this fall, after much of its machinery was damaged by Tropical Storm Isabel.

White said the three-story building could have retail space at street level and offices above. The building west of it will be occupied by the restaurant, which Patrick Sutton Associates is designing. The building to the south could be available for retail or office use.

The change in land use was approved earlier this month by Baltimore's zoning board, and the design has received preliminary approval from Baltimore's Design Advisory Panel. The conversion also has drawn praise from representatives of the Waterfront Coalition - a group of community activists - and the Baltimore City Historical Society.

White told the design panel that the architects have been studying historical documents to determine how to restore the exterior. "We're trying to stay true to the nature of any of the old photos we can find," he said.

One change, Wilks said, will be to install flood gates or doors to protect tenants at street level since the property occupies one of the lowest points in the city. At the same time, she said, the design team is seeking ways to make the commercial tenants "as open as possible to the street."

Foreman, the restaurateur, said he was drawn to the project by its location and historic character.

"I love the potential of this area of the city," he said. "The interior [of the restaurant space] is remarkable, and I think people will really respond to it. It has interesting bones."

Preservation of older structures such as the Codd building helps counterbalance the new construction nearby, he added. "It keeps the soul of the area."

New historic district

Stoneleigh, a residential community just north of the Baltimore City line in Baltimore County, is Maryland's newest historic district. Historic Towson Inc., the nonprofit group that nominated Stoneleigh for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, was notified this month that its nomination has been accepted.

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation and the highest form of recognition in historic preservation.

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