An arresting real-estate deal

ARCHITECTURE

Here's a rare chance to cop an old police station - and then call it home

December 20, 2004|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

It has to be the safest building in the neighborhood. It was a command center for generations of police officers. Now, it's being offered for sale to the general public.

The old Canton Police Station at 1300 S. Baylis St., just a few blocks from the Brewers Hill community and the Canton waterfront, is on the market for $400,000.

The listing is part of an aggressive effort by the city of Baltimore to sell off surplus properties in residential areas.

"It's a great old building," said Wayne Curtis, a real-estate agent working with the city. "It's larger than the surrounding houses because it's on a double lot. It was still in Baltimore County when it was built. There's been a police station on that site since the late 1800s."

Designed by noted architect Otto Simonson, who was responsible for Baltimore's Wholesale Fish Market on Market Place, the two-story building has brick walls, a granite base and limestone trim. It was constructed in 1916 and 1917. Besides Canton, its officers patrolled Highlandtown, Back River, Middle River, Chase and Dundalk.

"With Oriental rugs, hardwood floors and mahogany furniture, the new Canton police station ... resembles a comfortable club instead of a lockup," The Sun observed when the building opened in January 1917.

"On either side of the entrance corridor are private rooms - one for the lieutenant on duty and the other for the magistrate," the article stated. "The courtroom is much larger than that of the average city police station. The cellroom is fireproof, built of concrete and steel, with eight cells on the first floor and four on the second. On the second floor there are sleeping apartments for reserve policemen, an assembly room for the holding of coroner's inquests and a private office for the marshal of police."

After the city annexed the Canton area in 1919, the police station became part of the city's Eastern District. In 1949, the city converted it to a recreation center. The cell blocks were taken out, and a pool table and kitchen were put in.

In recent years, the building was leased to a job service program affiliated with Payne Memorial A.M.E. Church. This fall the city put the building on the market through a program called SCOPE, which stands for Selling City Owned Properties Efficiently.

Administered by Comptroller Joan M. Pratt's office, the SCOPE program has listed more than 100 properties for sale in neighborhoods such as Reservoir Hill, Patterson Park and the area around Hollins Market.

Curtis, an agent with the Fells Point office of Long and Foster Realtors and one of 10 working with the city program, said this is the first SCOPE property he knows of that was not originally built as a residence.

A complete list of SCOPE offerings can be found at www.bal timorehousing.org.

The Baylis Street property, with about 3,500 square feet of space, is zoned for high-density residential use, which means it could be one residence or more, but city officials prefer that buyers are owner/occupants. Curtis said he believes the location is a big part of the former police station's appeal.

To the north, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse and Obrecht Commercial Real Estate are transforming two former breweries to a mixture of work spaces and residences. To the south, businessman Ed Hale just broke ground for a 17-story office building that will anchor a waterfront development called Canton Crossing.

With a new health club and other amenities on nearby Boston Street, "this area is getting very popular," Curtis said. "And it's going to be more so."

Britt recognized

Architect Stanford Britt, a member of Baltimore's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel and longtime leader of the National Organization of Minority Architects, has been selected to receive the American Institute of Architects' Whitney M. Young Jr. Award for 2005.

Named after the former head of the Urban League, the award is given annually to an architect who "exemplifies the profession's responsibility to society." Britt will receive the award in May at the AIA's national convention in Las Vegas.

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