City's design panel approves Silo Point redevelopment plan

Project aims to convert grain elevator complex into condos, townhomes

January 09, 2004|By Antero Pietila | Antero Pietila,SUN STAFF

The city's design arbiters gave the go-ahead yesterday to a plan that would convert an old grain elevator complex near Fort McHenry into a $250 million development with luxury condominiums and offices.

"Conceptually we are in agreement with what you have done," said Mario Schack, speaking for the Design Advisory Panel, after an architect theatrically unveiled a scale model of the Silo Point redevelopment project.

The mock-up showed the 297-foot-tall grain elevator transformed into a glass-topped condominium tower - or, perhaps, a hotel. The adjoining silo would be used for parking and offices. The 15-acre site would also contain 116 townhouses and a large office building.

Yesterday's action was a necessary hurdle for the Henrietta Development Corp., which says it has started demolition at the site and plans to commence construction July 1.

Developers need to overcome several other obstacles to stick to that optimistic timetable, said Patrick Turner, one of Henrietta's owners.

First, city planners must include the project in their comprehensive plan for Locust Point, which is expected to be completed within 30 days.

Second, the City Council must lift industrial zoning from the former Archer Daniels Midland silo and grain elevator property, which lies between Fort Avenue and the Maryland Port Authority's North Locust Point Marine Terminal, just west of Fort McHenry.

Third, federal preservation guardians must approve punching hundreds of windows into the fortresslike elevator building to use the existing structure, because the developers want to use historic tax credits to finance the project.

Despite these obstacles, things seem to be moving favorably for Silo Point. Last month, the City Council tentatively approved a plan that would extend Key Highway to Tide Point, an old detergent factory that has been remodeled into an office park.

"It is unjust to say that this a road solely to serve the Tide Point property," developer C. William Struever said of the road that has been in limbo for 25 years.

He was referring to upscale residential projects and redevelopment of vacant, old industrial buildings into new uses. Currently, Fort Avenue is the only access route to the peninsula.

Recent upscale construction has transformed Locust Point, long a port-oriented blue-collar community. It is hotly debated among many longtime residents who have seen the prices of their modest rowhouses skyrocket - along with their property tax bills.

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