BDC seeks ideas to redevelop city firehouse

Building in Seton Hill has been closed since 1991

  • A rendering of the revised plan for the former Read's drugstore building downtown.
A rendering of the revised plan for the former Read's drugstore… (Rendering courtesy of Baltimore…)
March 21, 2011|By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun

City officials hope to transform a closed firehouse in Seton Hill in downtown's west side into a cafe or shop with offices or apartments above, the Baltimore Development Corp. said Monday.

The BDC, the city's economic development arm, is seeking proposals to redevelop the two-story brick building at 700 N. Eutaw St. in a neighborhood of historic rowhouses and churches centered around St. Mary's Park.

"It's an attractive, stable residential neighborhood, and there are a few little pockets here and there where property could be redeveloped," said John Thompson, economic development officer for the BDC.

The community has seen an uptick in development in recent years, including the conversion of the former City College, in a block adjacent to the firehouse, into the Chesapeake Commons apartments as well as the renovation of a commercial strip in the 500 block of N. Eutaw St. Construction is expected to start this year on The M on Madison, a residential rental project at Madison and Howard streets.

The city has focused for more than a decade on spurring private redevelopment of blighted sections of the west side. One of the largest projects would be a $150 million plan by developer Lexington Square Partners, which would build hundreds of apartments, parking, shops and a hotel in Baltimore's former retail district. The area, known as the Superblock, is roughly bounded by Lexington, Howard and Fayette streets and Park Avenue.

The firehouse in Seton Hill was home to Engine Company No. 7 from 1860 to 1991, when it closed, said Joann Logan, BDC spokeswoman. It is the first shuttered firehouse on the city's west side that the city has offered for redevelopment, Logan said.

The building was leased by Baltimore Station, which provides housing and services to homeless veterans, from 2004 through 2009, when the agency moved into a new facility in South Baltimore, she said.

The 5,200-square-foot space could accommodate a street-level business as well as offices or apartments on the second level, city officials said. The BDC is encouraging developers to come up with "art-related" uses for the building, with tenants such as a cafe, flower shop or antiques store.

The project also should complement Seton Hill, a historic district of restored rowhouses, businesses and churches near the proposed $1.5 billion State Center development, the BDC said.

Seton Hill is home to historic sites at the south end of St. Mary's Park, including St. Mary's Seminary Chapel, built in 1808 as the first Gothic Revival church in the United States, and the Mother Seton House, the former home of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and the first parochial school for girls in the nation. The neighborhood, one of the city's earliest, still-intact rowhouse communities, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.

The city is offering the building in "as is" condition and wants to see redevelopment completed within two years. Proposals are due to the BDC by June 30.

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