In search of a second chance

South Baltimore salvage business being forced to move for redevelopment is looking for a new location

January 11, 2009|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

For seven years, Second Chance has been the go-to place for salvaged ceiling tin, mahogany doors, stained-glass windows, claw-foot tubs and, yes, even the kitchen sink. (Bathroom sinks on sale, too, $5 and up.)

Selling salvaged architectural antiques out of five brick warehouses in South Baltimore, the nonprofit has worked to find new uses for old stuff. At the same time, the business in the shadow of Baltimore's football stadium offers job training to workers who help customers, stock shelves or go out to demolish houses, with surgical precision, to salvage pieces.

But now, forced to move from the crumbling industrial area to make way for a sports-themed waterfront office park, the group is looking for its own second chance by finding a new home nearby.

"We recognize the development down here is good for the city," said Andy Evans, a co-executive director for Second Chance. "We're not at all offended. We've had a good stretch down here and have built a sizable organization. We've been a good resident in an otherwise blighted area."

Of the warehouses Second Chance operates, four fall within the office park site between Russell Street and the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River, south of M&T Stadium, and are being acquired by the city through eminent domain. Second Chance owned two and rents two.

Office park lead developer Cormony Development has said the team hopes to start the $200 million project by the middle of this year. Second Chance, which has been working with Baltimore Development Corp. on its relocation plans, has not been given a move-out date.

But directors are preparing anyway, looking for new space on the opposite side of Russell Street and planning a "farewell" sale Jan. 22-24. Two warehouses that had already been closed will be reopened for the sale, to house merchandise marked as much as 80 percent off.

"We have to control our own business," Evans said. "What we can't afford is for them to call and say, 'Be out in six months.' "

Under the developer's plan, which has won city design approval, the area would be transformed. Now many warehouses in the area are boarded up or run down. The public has little access to and almost no view of the shores of the Middle Branch. A bank below a small bridge along Warner Street is littered with glass bottles and aluminum cans.

Developers plan two large office buildings, one possibly as a football-shaped tower, and a 90,000-square-foot sports complex developed in partnership with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis featuring playing fields, indoor golf, a fitness center and a swim club.

The city plans to use an adjacent site, closer to the stadium, for a slots casino, about a mile south of the Inner Harbor. Voters approved a constitutional amendment in November that would allow up to 15,000 slot machines at five locations around the state.

Yesterday, much of the activity along Warner Street centered on shopping. Customers fanned out through the large and drafty brick warehouses, hunting for cabinets, range hoods and hardware. Among more unusual items: a physician's examining table, circa 1930, and a cast-iron column salvaged from a Redwood Street office building that was destroyed in Baltimore's Great Fire of 1904.

Customers also said they have been able to find good deals on new merchandise. Second Chance also sells new kitchen cabinets, countertops and appliances, many from manufacturer showrooms or builder model homes. Yesterday, a new 23-piece kitchen, with granite countertops, a cooktop and a dishwasher, was going for 40 percent off at $6,750.

Susan Howell walked the aisles of new kitchen cabinets with her tape measure and found cabinets that would match some she had just bought from Second Chance to remodel her kitchen. Howell said she has been making the 90-mile trek from her home in Greencastle, Pa., for years. She said she once found century-old oak screen doors she then installed on a vacation home porch.

"I love old houses, and people who love old houses prefer to put old parts in," she said. "I come here for special things - specific hardware or a specific door - or for inspiration."

Ted and Lisa Reitterer of Relay said Second Chance has been a good option for them as remodeling do-it-yourselfers. A couple of years ago they gutted and remodeled the kitchen in their 1920s-era house and found new maple cabinets at Second Chance's kitchen and bath warehouse - for half-price.

Yesterday, the Reitterers were back, shopping with their two children, Gorsha, 9, and Svetlana, 8, hoping to find a matching shelf.

"We would never have been able to afford anything like that anywhere else," Ted Reitterer said.

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