Mill Project Planned

Historic Jones Falls Property Would Be Recycled As Apartments, Offices And Restaurant

October 15, 2009|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,ed.gunts@baltsun.com

One of Baltimore's historic cotton mills will become the city's newest apartment and office building if a local developer can secure funding and zoning approval for the conversion.

Developer David F. Tufaro of Terra Nova Ventures has a contract to purchase Mount Vernon Mill No. 1, a vacant, four-level mill at 3000 Falls Road in the Jones Falls Valley. A price has not been disclosed.

Tufaro wants to turn the mill into about 80 apartments, 24,000 square feet of office space, a restaurant and on-site parking.

He intends to seek approval of yet-to-be introduced City Council legislation that would change zoning of the property so Terra Nova can recycle it as a mixed-use development.

"It's a complicated project because it sits along the Jones Falls, but it's a fantastic project because it has spectacular views of the stream valley," Tufaro said. "What makes it unique is that most of the Jones Falls is covered by a highway, but this is a part of the stream that is open, and it is gorgeous. It's very, very scenic."

Tufaro said his project, tentatively called Mount Vernon Mill, is intended to build on the success of Clipper Mill, a mixed-use development completed several years ago on the site of the fire-damaged Clipper Mill, and Mill Centre, a collection of offices and artists' studios inside converted mill buildings on Chestnut Avenue. It is near the heart of the Hampden shopping district.

Tufaro said he does not have a firm cost estimate for the project but hopes to begin construction by late 2010 and to open by spring 2012. He said monthly rents probably would range from $900 for a one-bedroom apartment to $2,400 for a two-bedroom apartment overlooking the water.

According to historian John McGrain and others, the mill was built in 1845 as the Laurel Flouring Mill and in 1847 was renamed Mount Vernon Mill No. 1 after its owner, the Mount Vernon Co.

In 1873, the building was destroyed by fire, and it was reconstructed the same year. The company name changed over time from the Mount Vernon Woodberry Cotton Duck Co. to the Consolidated Cotton Duck Co. to the Mount Vernon Woodberry Mills and back to Mount Vernon Mills. Today, the Falls Road property consists of two sections, the part dating from 1873 and a section dating from 1918.

The property most recently was used by Life-Like Products, makers of plastic foam and packaging and other items. Life-Like has not used the building for several years. The seller is Jay Kramer.

This is the second mill property in the Jones Falls Valley to be targeted for conversion this year. A group headed by the Seawall Development Corp. recently received Baltimore Planning Commission approval to convert a stone mill on Union Avenue, another former Life-Like property, to apartments and commercial space.

Tufaro was the lead developer of the Waterloo Place apartments on Calvert Street and is a co-developer with Himmelrich Associates of Montgomery Park, the conversion to offices of the historic Montgomery Ward catalog warehouse in Southwest Baltimore.

He said Charles Alexander of Alexander Design Studio is designing the Falls Road project to comply with federal standards for historic preservation. As part of the transformation, he said, many of the windows that were bricked up over the years will be reopened to take advantage of the views, and the first level will be used for parking because the property falls within a 100-year flood plain.

Tufaro added that he hopes to attract people who like the natural setting but also want to be close to downtown, the Amtrak and MARC train lines, and the Jones Falls Expressway.

"It's less than a mile from Penn Station," he noted. "You don't realize you're right in the middle of the city."

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