Panel to nominate grain elevator for historic listing


Conversion to condominiums would keep landmark's structure

August 23, 2004|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

Baltimore's newest landmark is an elevator. But not just any elevator.

The Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation voted this month to nominate the former Baltimore & Ohio Locust Point Grain Terminal Elevator for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

It's part of a trend in which industrial buildings are increasingly being recognized for their historical and architectural significance.

"We've listed industrial buildings in the past, both locally and nationally," said city planner Brigitte Fessenden. "But this is one of the largest and most prominent."

"The grain elevator was a very, very significant building when it was completed in the 1920s," said Patrick Turner, a Baltimore developer who heads the team working to recycle the building. For a time, "it was the largest and fastest grain elevator in the world."

Built in 1924 at 1700 Beason St., the 297-foot-tall grain terminal is visible from many parts of Locust Point, where it looms above the smaller rowhouses nearby.

According to a report by Betty Bird & Associates, it was designed by John S. Metcalf to store grain and represents "the enormous scale of Baltimore's grain export market" from the 1920s to the middle of the 20th century.

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad built the grain elevator to replace an older one that was struck by lightning and burned in 1922. It was later acquired by Archer Daniels Midland Co. and remained in operation until 2002, when part of a state-owned pier that linked it to Baltimore's waterfront fell into the harbor.

Now it's targeted for reconstruction as part of a $200 million mixed-use development called Silo Point. Turner's team wants to convert the tower to luxury condominums and possibly some office and retail space, with Parameter Inc. as the architect.

An adjoining building containing 110 grain silos will be hollowed out and turned into a parking garage. There also will be 121 town houses and a separate office building.

Listing the property on the National Register makes the developers eligible to receive tax credits for historic preservation, if they follow federal guidelines in renovating the exterior of the grain elevator.

Preliminary plans call for the lower floors to keep the appearance they have today. The architects have been exploring the possibility of removing a corrugated metal skin from the top of the elevator -- levels added in the 1970s -- and replacing the metal with glass to give occupants panoramic views of the harbor.

Baltimore's Planning Commission and City Council agreed earlier this year to change zoning of the 15-acre Silo Point property -- previously restricted to industrial uses -- to permit commercial and residential construction.

The entire development is expected to take several years to complete and generate more than $5 million a year in property taxes.

New architecture dean

Garth Rockcastle, an architect and educator previously based in Minnesota, has been appointed dean of the University of Maryland's School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Rockcastle, 53, received his bachelor's degree in architecture from Pennsylvania State University and his master's degree in architecture from Cornell.

In 1981, he co-founded the Minneapolis firm of Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle, designer of the $41.5 million Regis Center for Art at the University of Minnesota. He also has extensive experience with adaptive reuse of historic structures.

Stafford reopens

The Stafford Apartments in Mount Vernon, recently acquired by the Johns Hopkins University for student housing, held its grand reopening Saturday and is now available for occupancy.

The 12-story building at 716 N. Charles St. previously housed low-income residents and was seen as a negative influence on the Mount Vernon historic district. It now contains 95 apartments for students of the nearby Peabody Institute as well as graduate students in all Hopkins divisions. Rents range from $669 to $1,074.

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