City officials have selected a group that includes well-known developer Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse to transform the long-vacant American Brewery building in a blighted corner of East Baltimore into the headquarters of a nonprofit social services provider.
American Brewery LLC plans a $17 million conversion of the towering 19th-century brewhouse, a historic landmark, into the headquarters of Humanim Inc., a Columbia-based provider of mental health and other services.
Humanim, which is part of the development team along with minority developer Gotham Development, plans to move 250 employees to the brewery once the project is completed and add 60 new jobs, according to documents submitted to the city.
The brewery has failed past attempts at redevelopment since it closed in 1973 and was given to the city four years later, but officials said Humanim's participation in the project should help ensure its success.
"Having one of the partners as the occupant does make this a bankable deal," said city Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano.
`Shot in the arm'
He added that the project could be a "tremendous shot in the arm" for the Broadway East community.
Neither Henry E. Posko, Jr., president and chief executive officer of Humanim, nor C. William Struever, head of Struever Bros., could be reach for comment last night.
In a recent interview, Struever said he has admired the architecture of the American Brewery since he came to Baltimore in the early 1970s, adding: "It's amazing it's still standing. ... It's crying to be fixed."
"More important than the jobs [Humanim will] bring to the neighborhood is the services," he said.
Completed in 1887, the brewery is an ornate, red-brick structure topped by three towers. It has been praised by critics and preservationists as a "unique example of 19th-century industrial architecture" and a "marvel of irregular design," notable for its varied windows and exterior brickwork.
American Brewery LLC was chosen over a Baltimore underground utility company, which wanted to turn a bottling plant on the 2-acre property at 1701 N. Gay St., near North Avenue, into a warehouse but made no proposal for the historic brewhouse.
A New York company submitted a partial proposal to restore the brewery as a beer-making facility but never furnished completed information, officials said.
The selection of American Brewery LLC gives the company exclusive negotiating rights to the property.
One point to be worked out is price. The company said in its proposal that it wanted to purchase the property for $1. The city's award stipulated that the land and buildings be sold at their appraised value, which has yet to be determined. But Graziano said the city would be "flexible" in its negotiations.
According to the company's proposal, the project will be financed by a combination of historic preservation tax credits, private financing and grants and will take a year from the start of construction to complete.
Humanim will occupy the brewhouse, and a separate tenant will be sought for the bottling plant, the proposal says.