Next stop for 1901 building: Condos with elevator?

ARCHITECTURE

Residences eyed for site that was the Calvert School, then business

ArchitectureColumn

July 05, 2004|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

The building at the corner of Chase and Morton streets in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood was the first permanent home of the Calvert School.

It later became offices for the company that invented the antiseptic Mercurochrome.

Now it's up for sale and appears likely to be reborn as Baltimore's newest condominium complex.

"We've shown it almost once a day" since it went on the market last month, said Bill Cassidy, sales manager for the Fells Point office of Long and Foster Real Estate and one of the listing agents representing seller Bettyjean Murphy. "There's a lot of interest."

The five-level building dates from 1901 and is one of the last large structures available for redevelopment in the Mount Vernon historic district. The asking price is $1.2 million.

Cassidy said most of the prospective buyers have indicated that they believe conversion to residences would be the best use - and that demand would be stronger for condominiums than for rental apartments.

"We sense a growing demand from people who are looking for a small condominium building with an elevator in a sought-after area, and Mount Vernon has proven to be a sought-after area," he said.

In many cases, he said, prospective condominium buyers are affluent empty nesters and others who want to sell large homes in the city that require extensive maintenance yet want to stay close to downtown and the Mount Royal cultural district.

In some instances, he said, buyers are choosing to move out of houses that have several flights of stairs to climb but otherwise want to stay in or close to the same area, and a condominium building with an elevator gives them the ability to do that.

"It's a growing population," he said. "They've lived close to downtown for years and they want to stay in the neighborhood."

Established in 1897, Calvert School rented rooms above a drugstore before moving in 1901 to the Chase Street building, which was designed by Wyatt and Nolting and constructed at a cost of $70,000.

The private school, one of Baltimore's most prestigious, moved to Tuscany Road in the 1920s. The Chase Street building became an annex of Hynson, Westcott and Dunning, the pharmaceutical firm that had its headquarters at the northwest corner of Charles and Chase streets.

When Hynson, Westcott and Dunning was acquired by Becton Dickinson in the 1980s, its employees moved to Baltimore County and the building became vacant. In the mid-1990s, Murphy acquired it with the idea of creating rental apartments, and she succeeded in having the property rezoned to permit residential use.

The building has 12-foot ceilings, unpainted woodwork on the lower levels, distinctive windows and exterior ornamentation, and places to create rooftop "verandas" with panoramic city views.

Murphy has put the building on the market, Cassidy said, because she is focusing on work in Reservoir Hill. In addition to the building, he said, she is selling architectural drawings that could be used to convert the building to 17 or 19 apartments with some off-street parking.

Cassidy said the trick is creating residences that will appeal to people who already live in the area but want to downsize to a place that requires less upkeep. Then once the residences are ready, he said, "the buyers are already there."

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