Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wall to wall Amazon

A lot of brainpower is put into making Amazon look at Baltimore, a cause that has hardly any better chances of winning than the lottery. Today they signed off on the application. The media have fully engaged in the frenzy and officials are going outright crazy just like lottery players when the jackpot is especially large. ULI fellow and developer Chris Leinberger called the decision the maybe biggest deal in the first half of this century.
The Business Journal's illustration of the HQ2 process. One article was tiltled
The Amazon Effect: 
How taxpayers are funding the disruption of the U.S. economy (BBJ)

In casino and lottery gambling the house always wins. Is the tech giant who dared to play with cities as if it were the Olympic Committee guaranteed to win? The assumption that Amazon will surely remain the growing giant global powerhouse is maybe the biggest fallacy in this gamble. Just look at Uber how quick fortunes change, the darling of start-ups, Tesla could be next,  our local poster-child Under Armour and its recent losses should be a warning sign (Nike has similar losses).

Tuesday Fox 45 asked me what I think about Amazon. (A transcript of the interview can be seen here). I quoted from my national blog which closes with an adaptation of the Kennedy quote that Amazon shouldn't ask Baltimore what it can do for Amazon but Amazon what it can do for Baltimore. Richard Florida made a similar point in Tuesday's CityLab in an article titled "Big Tech Ought to Step Up for Cities". Florida, who recently discovered that his book about the creative class describes a period in which bifurcation between rich and poor had become worse. He now writes about the The New Urban Crisis. Of course, Florida didn't create the crisis but his gushing about how the "creatives" can solve every urban problem had been annoying for a long time. Ironically, his current article still suggests that Big Tech can be the solution.

By contrast, I wrote in my article:
What legacy city mayors should really learn, though, is that playing the lottery won't solve their problems. Mayors of disinvested and impoverished cities like Detroit, St Louis and Baltimore may dream about salvation via a white knight riding into town. Doing their day-job, however, they need to fix their cities for their existing residents so they become happy residents who become ambassadors of their cities. That is the only truly sustainable way to build those cities back. 
Of course, the mania is contagious and it is hard to avoid playing mentally through what would happen if. On some level I really think that Amazon needs a boost for its corporate image and that investing in an underdog city like Baltimore would do that. Americans love underdogs stories. Besides, the Port Covington Plan-Town isn't a shabby place to go, large enough, a waterfront and enough space for the entire program. So does Baltimore stand a chance and should anybody who cares about this city care? Probably yes to both.
The signing of the application at City Garage on Wednesday morning

As it is, to intentionally not play in order to stay "clean" is a denying how the economy works without having an alternative game plan. In Baltimore, with Port Covington basically approved anyway, Amazon would probably be a pretty good choice for filling the 11 million or so permitted gross building area there, with ample opportunity of creating nearby housing for the workforce. A half- built Port Covington struggling to fill its many building blocks would probably be a far worse outcome than a large corporation taking a lot of the space.

In most of the hightech places where Google or Apple reside, in the Silicon Valley, in Orange County or the Research Triangle traffic nightmares are created from the workforce being scattered all over the place. By contrast, Baltimore would represent a real smart growth opportunity.

Assuming that Baltimore doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell also perpetuates the low self esteem that has dogged this town for way too long. Looking at the earnest current Maryland effort to pull a good application together, one must applaud the collaborative can-do attitude that brought so many agencies and people together. In a ceremony on Wednesday at City Garage orchestrated by Bill Cole, the application was signed by the Mayor and a great number of stakeholders and dignitaries. A show of support that may be a lesson learned from having lost the Red Line.
Screenshot of me talking to Kelly Anderson about
Amazon and Baltimore

Fox news journalist Kelly Anderson interviewing me for their local news surprised me with the question whether there were any downsides if Baltimore would get Amazon. She probably thought that our transportation system wasn't good enough (which it isn't, but that could be fixed in due time). Well, I would think the downside would be more complicated than transportation. and have to do with the social fabric. Even in Seattle where,thanks to the city's explosive growth,  most everybody is a newcomer, some find Amazon overbearing. The SUN documents in a Wednesday editorial how inflated Seattle's home prices have become. Of course, they have also Microsoft and Boeing. The other downside: Banking on one big "savior" is an inherently non-resilient and non-sustainable approach. History has shown many times what happens to company towns when the big guy leaves or falters. Remember Bethlehem Steel?

Meanwhile, now after the local, regional and State promoters sent their application package in will be a good time to hit them with something more realistic to do. Their desks will be empty for a day. However, it will probably be hard to bring them down to earth.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA report about the Baltimore submittal

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Guilt while shopping

We often see the ease with which we can get food as a major victory of civilization. It is astounding, though, how complicated  buying food still is.

In a Facebook discussion about the possible tear-down of the Eddie's grocery store in Mount Vernon Baltimore's immigrant journalist turned social historian and documenter of Baltimore's past racial and class discrimination, Antero Pietila confessed that he often shops at the Aldi on Baltimore National Pike out in the County. That surprise me, although, on occasion, I shop there as well. I responded  that the German discounter exploits its employees and depresses the prices of its vendors. Which allows the low prices which lure people to shop there and which make me feel guilty. The food at Aldi isn't local and the meat is probably from some kind of industrial ag empire. Occasionally I grab some item that says "Deutsche K├╝che" for nostalgia.
Catonsville Aldi: 10,000 sf are enough to shake up the

To compensate for spending money at Aldi (or Trader Joe's, owned by the same group), I shop sometimes at the Lexington Market during lunch break. On the weekend I try to go to a farmers market to buy bread, tomatoes and local cucumbers, everything about twice as much as it would cost at Giant, the Baltimore local baseline grocer.

But Giant hasn't been local for quite some time either since it is part of the Dutch grocery giant Ahold. Very possibly the strawberries, tomatoes and pork chops for sale at the nearby Giant come from the same source as the ones at Aldi. Who knows where Whole Foods will get their food after being owned by Amazon. Most of packaged items still don't tell us the place of origin.

There are also some good breads at the Waverly Market and at Atwaters. Bakers and even butchers, once commonplace in Baltimore, experience some kind of renaissance. There is excellent meat at Parts and Labor, but I can't afford it. It feels like one needs to take out a mortgage to buy there. Besides driving all over the region for food is certainly not environmentally friendly. Guilt again.
Food is political: O'Malley and Cummings in front of
Catonsville Atwater's promoting minimum wage increase (2014)
“While new supermarkets are not the only way to eliminate food deserts, the presence of a supermarket has a large impact on food access. Nationally, in 2013, 63 percent of all dollars for food purchased for home consumption were spent at supermarkets.” (CLF Report)
Back when I lived in the heart of the Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt shopping was less complicated and not fraught with thoughts about what would be good, bad or outright sinful. I walked to the Saturday farmer's market, to the local grocer Nanz, to the baker and the butcher simply because these were my choices without getting into a car. There was no point in getting into a car to do distant shopping except when it was time to replace the big cases of soda, mineral water and beer to replace the empty glass bottles with full ones. Driving would simply get you into another neighborhood food eco system that would look much like my own. Today, my 94 year old father walks from his Stuttgart retirement home to a modern Edeka store located below an apartment building next to a subway station. With 19,000 squarefeet it is large by local standards and small by ours. It offers anything one could want, from flowers to wine and from fish to exotic salami. Strip shopping center grocery stores with huge parking lots in front are rare in German cities and many people still walk to their stores within their neighborhood. Even bigger urban stores are part of the urban fabric like Baltimore's Whole Foods in Harbor East, with parking somewhere tucked into a structure. Or they look like Eddie's.
5,000 sf of food items

I also walk from my office to buy lunch and some cheeses and meats at Trinacria because it is such a wonderful throwback to the old world stores. Additionally, Trinacria has a great meat and cheese selection and many really good, very cheap wines. There are "real people" behind the counter who have been there for years and they know my name and I know their's. This is nice and makes me feel good, just as supporting a local business while not spending a fortune on quality food; who can beat that?

This gets us back to the beginning. Eddies is for the residents of Mount Vernon quite what my Nanz in Bad Cannstatt was for me when I lived there: part of the neighborhood eco-system. Not cutting edge and not the cheapest, but one can walk there and always find most what is needed. Why shop in a 100,000 sf Wegmanns 20 miles away when one can walk to the 5000sf Eddie's, meet some neighbors in the process, chat with the longtime employees there and potentially find locally grown produce?

I suppose it is what makes America great that people with cars and enough money can chose between Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, Giant, Safeway, Superfresh, Shoppers and soon Sprouts when it comes to buying milk, butter eggs and oranges. That food has become so cheap that farmers can't exist on making it, that strawberries are available year round and that a whole rotisserie chicken costs only $4.99. But it is also very American that a third of the City's residents can't walk to a grocery at all or lives in a food desert. Considering all that, it seems like a bad idea to demolish Eddie's, even before one even considers historic preservation.
Suburban food shopping: Wegmans at Hunt Valley

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Mapping Baltimore City's Food Environment (2015)

Monday, October 16, 2017

AIA Design Awards 2017: Here are the winners

Mark Reddington, FAIA, of LMN Architects, the chair of the Seattle based jury of architects who reviewed this year's crop of design award application explained in a conversational way why good design matters for society overall.

He noted that the jury he chaired paid much attention to equity and sustainability on the impact the work of architects has on real people. The way he explained it, he avoided the "archibabble" that so often characterizes the reasoning of juries when they explain their decisions. Reddington made the selection process understandable to the non-architects in the room, "real people" who were related to the award winning projects as clients, consultants,  contractors and friends and who as usual accompanied the award winners for the annual celebration.

The Behnisch - ASG designed University of Baltimore John and Frances Angelos Law Building is itself  a former award winner and a great example of how much a building influences daily activity and in this case, learning. Here the award winners:

For the second year in a row, the Grand Design Award went to Ziger/Snead Architects. SNF Parkway was the winning submission. The jury appreciated how the architects merged the present with the past and the clear contribution the theater makes to the Station North neighborhood.
he Grand Design Award (Given to the most exceptional project as deemed by the jury)
SNF Parkway; Ziger/Snead Architects; Baltimore, MD

Grand award winner: The Parkway Theatre
Other Excellence in Design Awards Winners are:
Open Works; Cho Benn Holback + Associates, a Quinn Evans Company; Baltimore, MD

Baltimore Center Stage; Cho Benn Holback + Associates, a Quinn Evans Company; Baltimore, MD
Excellence in Design: Center Stage renovation

R. House; PI.KL Design; Baltimore, MD
Excellence in Design: R-House

Unbuilt Project of the Year
NURTURE: Lehigh Living Cultural Center; Matthew Wieber, Assoc. AIA & Kurt Kimsey, Assoc. AIA; Bethlehem, PA (Unbuilt)
Unbuilt: Lehigh Living Cultural Center

Honorable mentions for Excellence in Design went to:
Linden Park Apartments Redevelopment, by Wiencek + Associates Architects + Planners

Nine East 33rd, by Design Collective, Inc.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center by GWWO, Inc./Architects

The Salisbury University Patricia R. Guerrieri Academic Commons by Ayers Saint Gross

the Slate House, by Ziger, Snead Architects and

Chrysalis by the Everymany and Living Design Lab, LLC

In addition AIA has special awards for environmental design historic preservation and good business. Those are:

 Award for Excellence in Environmentally Sustainable Design
Wake Forest School of Medicine; Gaudreau, Inc.; Winston-Salem, NC

Open Works; Cho Benn Holback + Associates, a Quinn Evans Company; Baltimore, MD

 Award for Excellence in Environmentally Sustainable Design Open Works
NURTURE: Lehigh Living Cultural Center; Matthew Wieber, Assoc. AIA & Kurt Kimsey, Assoc. AIA; Bethlehem, PA (Unbuilt)

Michael F. Trostel, FAIA, Award for Excellence in a Historic Preservation Project
Sagamore Pendry Hotel; Beatty Harvey Coco Associates Architects; Baltimore, MD

Award for Excellence in a Historic Preservation Project: Pendry Hotel Fells Point
Good Design = Good Business Winner
R. House; PI.KL Design; Baltimore, MD

The Good Design = Good Business Award, honoring Maryland projects that utilize good design to help companies, organizations and communities achieve their goals, was recognized by a local jury including Suzanne Frazier, FAIA, Professor at the School of Architecture and Planning at Morgan State University, Charlie Duff, President of Jubilee Baltimore, and past BAF President, and Luis Cardona, Director of Economic Development at Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, and current BAF board member.

A honorable mention for Good Design = Good Business went to the Takoma Langley Transit Center by ArchPlan Inc., Renovations to South Cumberland Branch Library – Allegany County Library System by Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects and Linden Park Apartments Redevelopment by
Wiencek + Associates Architects + Planners.
Langley Park Transit Center

The Baltimore Architecture Foundation presented its distinguished Golden Griffin and Roger D. Redden awards. The awards recognize dedication to architecture and the furthering of its understanding in Baltimore. Winners are:

The Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation (BARCO)
Kathleen Kotarba, former director of CHAP

 For a complete list of all awards and winners see here.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Friday, October 13, 2017

Barclay's secret sauce of success

Barclay, Old Goucher and Greenmount West can probably be counted as the first heavily disinvested majority African American communities in Baltimore which have been able to stage a turn-around in a planned and sustainable way. For a long time Barclay, Midway and Greenmount West were some of the most dire representations of a city that has fallen on hard times: Vacant buildings wherever one turned, trash strewn empty lots, abandoned stores, building fires and lots of gun fire as well. Greenmount Avenue bordering or traversing these communities was one of the saddest arterials leading out of the city, so characterized by abandonment that some didn't even dared to drive on it in a car, let alone ride it on a bicycle.
People first: Barclay gallery The Tectonic Space
(Photo: Philipsen)

Since 2005 a slow and steady transformation has taken place to a point that today a renovated rowhouse can be put up for sale for an incredible $350,200. That house isn't just one of those plain vanilla rehabs where the floors are beige carpet, the doors hollow and kitchen appliances of the budget variety. Instead, the 3-bedroom, 2-bath 2,000 sf rowhouses in the North Calvert Green section of Barclay have Energy Star certification, feature "watersense" toilets, boast dual-zone air conditioning and hardwood flooring.There is a deck in back, a great view out the third floor windows and a new park in the making across the street. The group of a dozen rehabbed rowhouses "are worth what they cost" as Jubilee developer Charlie Duff puts it. Which means that they can sold (almost) without the usual write downs and subsidies. The dream state for real estate development because at that point "the market" can take over and fill out the remaining vacant buildings without draining the limited resources of whatever money is usually thrown at first time home-buyer homes in vulnerable neighborhoods.

This point seems to take a view heavily slanted towards the developer, but think about it, a market driven approach is the only way how Baltimore can ever make a dent in its huge inventory of vacant houses. There is no agency on the local, state or federal level with the resources to renovate housing on a large scale if rents or sales prices cannot cover the cost of construction. There is also no sustainable, diverse and stable community if every house and every apartment are subsidized. The history of Baltimore's "projects" has sufficiently demonstrated that such concentrations of poverty are not successful as livable communities or neighborhoods.
North Barclay apartments and the Tectonic Space (Photo: tectonic website)

Does this mean Barclay is now "gentrified" and out of reach for the poor or that existing residents have been displaced? And if not, what is the secret sauce that made it possible to seel at cost and still have affordability?

Telesis, the developer (Website), took over 268 city owned parcels, of those 94 were vacant lots. buildings, many of them vacant, some involving relocation. So far they have built over 200 affordable units and 35 market rate homes. For example the North Barclay Green: 57 apartments for households with about 60% of area median income including ten units designated for chronically homeless families or individuals. The building looks quite dapper, fronts Greenmount Avenue, and has 10,000 sf of first floor "community retail". Wondering what "community retail" means, I got to see an art gallery (The Tectonic Space), a tenant gathering space with business workstations and a dance studio for kids (Fearless Dance). Other developers in Barclay include AHC, a large regional affordable and mixed income housing developer. AHC completed 80 buildings in Greenmount West and Barclay with a total of 139 units.
The Barclay-Old Goucher redevelopment plan

The new apartment block, designed by Mark Thomas Architects contrasts starkly with the dilapidated buildings across the street which are vivid reminders of how all of Greenmount looked until recently. The 2007 Telesis Plan accepted after a Request for Proposals (RFP) process issued by Baltimore Housing is based on the principle that "the Plan must provide a sufficient amount of affordable units to accommodate current residents and a significant number of moderate and market rate units to create a stable and diverse mix of incomes and tenure". The Plan established these goals:

  • 101 market-rate homeownership opportunities
  • 22 affordable homeownership opportunities (80% of Area Median Income)
  • 43 replacement public housing units (PHA-OF Units)
  • 91 affordable rental units
  • 65 market rate rental units
  • Approx. 12,000 square feet of community and retail space
  • A new neighborhood park
  • An improved Calvert Street Park
  • Improved streetscape across the neighborhood 
This mix indicates that one can hardly talk about "gentrification", at least not in the sense that there wouldn't be affordable housing choices or that the offerings would not be diverse. baking protections for existing residents into the plan was certainly a goal of the community stakeholders.

As one of the ingredients of the secrete sauce Telesis established a stable team of partners they pretty much maintained throughout, including Southway Builders, Marks Thomas Architects and most importantly, community partners such as the People's Homesteading Group (PHG) for outreach and in some cases deconstruction of units. The Telesis Plan was essentially a community plan based on hundreds of meetings with all stakeholders which organized as the Barclay-Midway-Old Goucher Coalition. The plan has many physical and capacity building elements which can be studies here.
Marks-Thomas partner Architect Magda Westhout (left), Telesis Associate
porject manager Jenny Hope (center) in a North Calvert Green home

How did these many affordable unit get financed? The answer is complicated like everything with affordable housing and exceeds what this article can cover. Funding included the usual sources such as low income tax credits, development block grants, New Market tax credits and a whole host of programs including historic tax credits for units in the historic district. Included in the menu is also the new HUD Rental Assistance Demonstration Program which was used for the rehabilitation of the Brentwood building. The building was brought up to current standards with residents being able to stay on. Another important partner for funding is TRF, now simply called RF for Reinvestment Fund.
Reinvestment Fund is a catalyst for change in low-income communities. We integrate data, policy and strategic investments to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods (RF website)
(T)RF's role in this should not be underestimated since capital is usually the scarcest thing when it comes to investing in disenfranchised communities, the federal Reinvestment Act intended to force banks to lend in poor communities notwithstanding. (T)RF has specialized in pooling over 800 investors to access sufficient money to place strategic loans. Fund investors include the Abell Foundation, Anne E. Casey Foundation, City of Baltimore, First Mariner Bank, Goldseker Foundation, Howard Bank, Johns Hopkins University, Living Cities Foundation, M&T Bank, MECU, PNC Bank, and Rosedale Federal Bank. Last December another $10 million loan as part of a  Central Baltimore Future Fund was announced, a fund managed by RF.  RF has loaned $43 million in Central Baltimore, according to Don Hinkle Brown, the RF CEO.
Sean Closkey, President of RF Development Partners has spoken at Baltimore Housing's "Vacants to Value" summits where he explained in the most cogent manner how strategic investment works.
Announcement of Future Fund loan Decmber 2016 (RF website)

The Barclay neighborhood is located in central Baltimore, a mid-point between Johns Hopkins University and the Baltimore Harbor. Telesis' work in the past 11 years spreads over 20 city blocks
Two thirds of the plan are currently completed or under construction. All affordable apartments were almost immediately filled.

Barclay is bounded by Greenmount West, Midway and Old Goucher, all communities that are part of the Central Baltimore Partnership, a partnership which developed a masterplan for more than a dozen central Baltimore neighborhoods and the goal to add as many as 3000 new households. The fact that Barclay is embedded in a larger area plan and is located near areas of strength such as the Arts and Entertainment District to the South are additional ingredients to the secret sauce.
City Arts 2 artist housing in Greenmount West
(Photo: Philipsen)

Greenmount West, its southern neighbor is a turn-around community in which the driver is the Station North A&E district and investments such as the Baltimore Design School, City Art 1 and 2, both affordable artist housing projects, the new Open Works maker space and the Lillian Jones afforbale housing development east of Greenmount Avenue. As the former community association president for Greenmount West, Dale Hargrave who is very complimentary of Telesis work put it: “We didn't just settle on just anything”, explaining how a slew of  developers "well dressed with jewelry and all (Hargrave) come to the community and promise a lot. "We were very selective", Hargrave emphasized, "and so were you", meaning Barclay the Barclay Old Goucher community.

The secret sauce to Barclay-Older Goucher's success is not easily replicated, whether it is the large Central Partnership with powerful partners who can fuel a reinvestment fund, or the responsible and knowledgeable master developer who not only builds but also manages all the rental units; or the community-based very strategic plan which carefully stages investments so they build on each other or the diligent tapping into so many grants and housing programs, many them in danger of being cut by HUD under the current administration.
The 10 year progress proves that it is possible to bring poor and vulnerable communities back without too many demolition bulldozers, real or economic displacements and do so in a sustainable way that produces not only bricks and mortar but also strengthens and trains people. Happy old-time residents of Barclay will in the end be the best ambassadors for attracting new people to fill all the new development. And they can also be ambassadors to the many other still struggling communities.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

The Telesis Plan
Central Baltimore Partnership masterplan (2008)

North Barclay Green (Photo: Southway Builders)

Community garden in the courtyard behind North Barclay Green (Photo: Philipsen)

As part of AIA's Architecture Month I will give a lecture about the "Future of Baltimore" on October 18 at 6pm at the MICA Lazarus Center on 131 West North Ave. My book "Baltimore, Reinventing an American Legacy City" will be available for purchase. 
The event is free but you need to register here

Thursday, October 12, 2017

DOT misses another opportunity

DOT will spend $6.3 million on reconstructing one of the more prominent intersections in Baltimore. In the end it will all pretty much as before and another big opportunity of redefining public spaces at the Inner Harbor will be lost. Lengthy procedures and tepid results seem to be the daily diet  of Baltimore transportation. Tepid is how DOT started designing this intersection three years before Ayer Saint Gross would present their concepts for what they called "Harbor 2.0" and six years before the McKeldin Fountain would have been destroyed under the promise that Light Street would be reconfigured and tepid is how it ends in 2017.
Light Street looking south some years back when the rail track was
still exposed: Too much concrete (Photo: Gerald Neily)

The result is that the McKeldin Fountain has been lost without any progress on re-configuring Light Street and that the expenditure at Key Highway will dim hope of really dealing with Light Street in a comprehensive fashion. This is a sad outcome given how much space is wasted for an abundance of concrete pavement between Key Highway and Pratt Street in this vestige of a time when car mobility was an overriding urban planning consideration. It is especially depressing considering the are is right in Baltimore's signature Inner Harbor area for which the city has become known the world over.

When I-95 and I-83  freeway flyovers across the Inner Harbor were defeated and this perfect dream for car-centered mobility was busted, it appeared necessary to give traffic planners and suburban drivers a consolation prize in form of Pratt, Light and Key Highway designed as surface freeways. A prevois mayor's idea of bringing the Grand Prix to these streets wasn't totally illogical, no matter how ill conceived. In spite of all the lip service given to complete streets and multi-modal transportation, the three excessive roadways still have a perfect stranglehold on the Inner Harbor and continue to isolate it as a tourist ghetto separated from the surrounding come-back neighborhoods by raods that are hard to cross. It is useful to remember that when these roadways were first paved, Otterbein and Federal Hill were "dollar-house" communities and nobody lived in downtown or along Key Highway.
Light Street before the Inner Harbor was transformed (Kilduff)

Today the areas around the water have a significant influx of residents increases while the city on balance can barely hold its population steady. In that situation it seems like it would be DOT's task to bring these roadways into the 21st century and make them part of an urban fabric that connects with the flourishing neighborhoods all along them.

But nope. From the get-go DOT tinkered around the margins of just one intersection without any strategy for the bigger context. First the department had worked out a traffic rotary for Pratt and Light which the SUN reported to be ready for construction in July 2012. But even the circle, which really didn't solve the bigger problem anyway, was considered as too daring by traffic engineers and nixed. Instead of using ASG's Harbor 2.0 visioning as a wake-up call for bigger thinking, DOT kept the blinders on and hired STV engineers to come up with another design for just this limited intersection area. In a required and aptly named "de minimis finding" document which was presented in 2016, the myopic scope was described this way:
The scope of work consists of reconstruction of the intersection to improve traffic and pedestrian safety, along with reconstruction of Key Highway between Light Street and Battery Avenue. Sidewalks will be reconstructed to ADA compliance. The project also includes signal upgrades, landscaping, and extension of the existing Gwynns Falls Trail along Key Highway between William Street and Covington Street.

Work within the Recreation and Parks property consists of driveway and ADA ramp adjustments, improvements to the Gwynns Falls Trail, replacement of trees that are in poor health and planting of additional trees and grass areas.
The intersection plan presented as part of the "de minimis" finding (STV)
Harbor 2.0, meanwhile, in spite of its little traffic bomb further north at Pratt and Light, where ASG coolly proposed to close the swoop that connects northbound Light with northbound Calvert Street remained largely inconsequential. Per the usual piecemeal approach another traffic engineering firm was hired to study the northern Pratt and Light intersection. The results of that investigation have been kept under lock to this day and the spur to Calvert Street remains open without modification, no matter that the fountain had been destroyed in anticipation of the connection.
Harbor 2.0 addressed traffic mostly in the
northern section of Light Street near Pratt.
The width reduction proposed there should
have been carried south all the way to
Key Highway (ASG)

With the suggestion of linking HarborPlace to McKeldin Plaza the Harbor 2.0 Plan had put its fingers on the right spot and at least partially addressed the oversized Light Street and the isolating effect that Light, Pratt and Key Highway have on the Inner Harbor.  ASG many ideas for Pratt Street commissioned by DPOB  (such as a two-way Pratt Street) also never made it any closer to reality.

Among others, former traffic planner Gerald Neily on his blog Baltimore Inner Space and the AIA Urban Design Committee have promoted a significant "road diet" for Light Street, to no avail. Complete  elimination of all lanes east of the median or partial deletion of lanes on either side with a shifted center-line would have added considerable space either to the Westshore Park area which has been redesigned several times but remains unconvincing for its lack of size. Or it could have added more space in front of the buildings of the westside, potentially with a small service lane buffering them from the busy roadway.

If all the pavement currently in place for short-term and bus parking as well as the bike-lanes could be relocated into Light Street's excessive road bed, Westshore Park could become a much more  significant space and Light Street a much more pleasant urban Street. Light Street will very soon be the prominent address of Baltimore's tallest and most expensive residential building. A less inflated and more urban Light Street also would have made the intersection with Key Highway a much more manageable problem.

As it is now, Light Street will remain stuck in the 70s planning paradigm as an ugly expanse of roadway more reminiscent of a suburban arterial highway than an urban street. It is predictable that soon after the six million plus intersection will be complete, engineers will be fired up again to draw up concepts that appease the upset residents of 401 Light who will soon enough complain about the speedway in front of their very expensive door.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Baltimore Brew article

Proposed traffic Circle: Aborted (Rendering: Floura Teeter)

As part of AIA's Architecture Month I will give a lecture about the "Future of Baltimore" on October 18 at 6pm at the MICA Lazarus Center on 131 West North Ave. My book "Baltimore, Reinventing an American Legacy City" will be available for purchase. 
The event is free but you need to register here

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Misunderstanding historic preservation

That people have very different opinions about historic preservation isn't particularly surprising in a time when some can't even agree on topics which are defined by science. Historic preservation is certainly not science but a cultural reflection on the insight that in a rapidly changing world cities need to protect historic assets as witnesses of the past that give places richness and complexity.
The Eddie's block in Mount Vernon

Attending a hearing of Baltimore's historic commission CHAP is an instructive and somewhat depressing experience. It highlights the daily challenges Baltimore's historic buildings and those deciding over their fate face. Application after application owners and developers put heart and soul of this city on the chopping block. The aspiration of protecting the tapestry of history butts heads with the real world and its lack of people and resources to maintain use or provide upkeep for so many old buildings in Baltimore. In the hearing on Tuesday CHAP commissioners put up a good effort, voting for preserving the protected status of historic buildings in the majority of the cases before them, including Eddie's.
The Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) was established in 1964, and is currently governed by Article Six of the Baltimore City Code.  Today CHAP oversees 33 local historic districts, over 200 landmarks, and manages a local historic preservation tax credit program.  CHAP helps preserve and revitalize neighborhoods, celebrates City history, and promotes historic preservation as a proven economic driver for Baltimore City.  The mayoral appointed Commission and its staff are located within the Department of Planning. (Website). 
It was surprising, though, to find so much confusion, misconception and misunderstanding among the commissioners who's express purpose is to protect architectural history. On the agenda was among other applications the request for demolition of 7-14 East Eager Street buildings which date back to 1867.
Developer Dennis Richter addressing the Commission

13 commissioners are appointed by the Mayor and they don't have to be experts or professionals in the field but are thought of as citizen commissioners, even though at least four members of the current  commission are architects or planners with experience in the field. They are guided by a 30 page rule book which also includes the review of demolition applications, as the one for Eddie's on Eager Street. Those reviews have been split into two potential steps, the first with the sole focus on determining the preservation value of the structure(s) proposed for demolition. If a demolition is denied because a structure is considered as "contributing" or "historically significant" the applicant can file for a second hearing to make an "economic hardship" argument. In the regulations this is spelled out this way:
The first step in the demolition review process is a public hearing to determine if the building contributes to a local historic district or continues to meet standards for designation as a local landmark. At this hearing staff shall present the following:
1. The historical and/or architectural significance of the property;
2. The history of all structures on the property including the approximate dates of additions and significant alterations;
3. A determination of the historical and/or architectural significance of a structure’s additions, significant alterations, or ancillary buildings; and
4. Application of criteria for designation (see 2.1) to the structure in question. A determination regarding the significance of the structure will be made prior to considering details of the demolition and hardship application, and any projects for new construction on the site. Doing so allows the Commission to determine the importance of the structure solely upon architectural and historical criteria. If a structure does not meet the criteria or contribute to the historic character of a local district, then an Authorization to Proceed for demolition shall be issued (Guidelines)
Although this sounds simple enough, the Commissioners kept debating on several applications whether they can ask the applicant about his financial means or impose economic conditions or future project timelines. One Commissioner, former law professor Larry Gibson, took opposing positions on the same point in two different applications. He observed at the first application that economic conditions were inappropriate. Two hours or so later he made a motion with just those conditions as part of his motion. (He withdrew it, when the contradiction was pointed out).
CHAP hearing with 6-12 Central Ave on display
(Demolition denied)
But these procedural confusions weren't what was the most baffling. Truly astonishing was how differently various commissioners defined what makes a building historically significant or contributing.   The guidelines are pretty clear:
The quality of significance in Baltimore history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, public interiors, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and:
1. That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of Baltimore history; or
2. That are associated with the lives of persons significant in Baltimore's past; or
3. That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
4. That have yielded or may be likely to yield information important in Baltimore prehistory or history.
The above criteria mirror the National Register Criteria for Evaluation, which were developed by the National Park Service to determine historic significance in American history and culture. (Section 2.2 Guidelines)
It was Commissioner Gibson again who in two cases applied the merit question in opposite ways both times contradicting the staff recommendation of CHAP. On four dilapidated run-of-the-mill rowhouses in the Union Square historic district he had no trouble finding them absolutely contributing since they were "so Baltimore that even people in other cities would recognize them" as such. Even that they had lost their cornice when formstone had been applied, or were bereft of their marble steps, did not prevent Gibson from a fervent plaidoyer for those simple houses. His stand in the end saved them from being declassified as contributing, at least in the first hearing. Staff review wanted to save only one of them. But when it came to Eddie's and the former Eager Restaurant Gibson exclaimed he didn't "see anything that made these buildings contributing except that they have been around a long time". He mocked their "utilitarian vernacular" design and bemoaned that they had been altered a few times and compared them unfavorably to other more notable historic structures in Mount Vernon. In doing so he obviously went back to a past notion of historic preservation when only noble architecture of palaces and mansions was seen worthy for preservation. Those are called "landmarks" and protecting them started the preservation movement. Baltimore certainly has plenty of them such as City Hall, Penn Station, or the Garrett Mansion. Gibson's stand is ironic for someone who was a renowned civil rights activist and had just chaired the Baltimore Monument Commission which had to find over monuments expressing white supremacy. Ziger Snead Architects partner Doug Bothner who designs the new building going up instead of Eddie's also came back to "noble architecture" by explaining that If the materiality was that wonderful”, they would consider integrating the buildings or facades, but not with the "cheap brick coursing" that these "utilitarian" structures had. An argument that also bestows merit only high-brow architecture.
Preservation "character frequently matches value
(NHP report)

Preservation has come a long way since the days when it was leveraged only for buildings that were monuments or landmarks. Today preservation is much more inclusive and sees merit in a much broader range of historic structures applying criteria such as context, culture and meaning. As a result, Baltimore's worker and alley housing has been protected as well as utilitarian factories and even entirely unremarkable structures which have only social meaning, such as the Sphinx Social Club. The dilapidated burnt out structure has been accepted as historically significant due to its meaning for African Americans during segregation and the heydays of Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore. (My firm ArchPlan is the architect).
Areas of the city characterized by older, smaller buildings and mixed-vintage blocks average more than twice the number of jobs in small businesses found in areas of Baltimore with mostly newer, larger buildings. (NHT, Building on Baltimore's History)
The purpose of the hearing about the Eager Street structures was to determine whether their previous classification as "contributing" was justified. They were never considered "landmarks" in the sense of "representing the work of a master, or possessing high artistic values". A contributing structure is by definition not the hero in the play but an "also ran" without which the play called "city" could never get on stage. Contributing structures make up the "fabric" that architects like to talk about. Preservation research has shown that preservation adds economic value. A research project by the National Historic Trust showed that specifically maintaining that fine-grained old fabric was key to the higher valuation of properties in neighborhoods rich of preserved fabric.  Or as a planning intern worded it in his testimony at the hearing:
These buildings are a record of the evolution of Mt Vernon, expressed in brick. History doesn’t always have to be the prettiest building. 
In spite of the clear rule mandating to only speak about the historic merit of the structure itself  or its context, the entire CHAP hearing was rife with economic arguments that were often enough thinly veiled anti-preservation arguments altogether. Developer Dennis Richter began his argument for demolition immediately with an economic argument calling the intended project (after demolition) a “Catalyst to unlock investment in a historic neighborhood “. In spite of his self-ascribed affinity to historic buildings and preservation he continued with anti-preservation arguments: “I have seen many buildings in Mt Vernon and these buildings (13,15) are subpar” and “A neighborhood should not be static, shouldn’t be a museum“ both lines are often heard from those who think there is too much preservation alreadyGino Cardinale, owner of City Cafe and speaking in support of demolition, also assured his "love for historic structures" but then ramped up the economic argument by talking down the entire neighborhood: “How is it that we are losing our vibe..What’s going on in Mt Vernon is a damn shame”. ... "we are talking about the future of our neighborhood “ strongly suggesting that economic stagnation resulting from preservation was the culpritAnother resident and business owner continued swinging the economic sledgehammer this way: “Styles change, fortunes change” and “we are in a totally different economy,” yet another citizen exclaimed about the brilliance of the envisioned future project: “This block for the 21st century “.
Commissioner Larry Gibson making his case

With all this the arguments for a potential level 2 hearing were already aired  and the project proponents had identified themselves as gentrifiers by suggesting that Mt Vernon would be better off with something it doesn't have yet than with what it has. Their aim is to change the character of the area to become a "downtown of Mt Vernon".

For such a second hearing the CHAP regulations require the following standards when considering economic aspects:
 “whether demolition is necessary to avoid a substantial hardship” and whether denial of a demolition permit would result in “no reasonable beneficial use” of the historic structure. The Commission will also determine whether demolition will constitute a “substantial detriment to the public welfare” and demolition will be “without substantial derogation to the intents and purposes of Article 6 of the Baltimore City Code.”
Johns Hopkins of Baltimore Heritage was one of the few who spoke for preservation and against the demolition application, even though he was visibly conflicted by the fact that the developer and all those testifying for him were also his friends with whom "I usually lock arms". But he was firm that "in this case I strongly disagree and urge you to maintain the position that these structures are contributing". 

In the end it was CHAP chairman and architect Tom Liebel who brought the matter back into focus. He asked:
Even though the MVBA says they don't want see this as a precedent for de-listing other structures deemed "contributing", how could it be otherwise. What will we do if the next applicant wants the same treatment as you?" (CHAP chair Tom Liebel, FAIA)
The commissioners voted 5:3  against de-listing the buildings and against granting the demolition. A next round is all but guaranteed. When leaving the hearing, the developer and his supporters were optimistic they would prevail next time. One can only hope, the commissioners have carefully studied the stringent criteria by then.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

My lecture about the future of Baltimore will take place as part of AIA's Architecture Month on October 18 at 6pm at the MICAH Lazarus Center on 131 West North Ave. My book "Baltimore, Reinventing an American Legacy City" will be available for purchase. 
The event is free but you need to register here

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Broadway Markets - an unfulfilled promise

On the plywood boards covering the windows of the North Market naively painted icons depict all the things the shuttered market no longer offers: Fresh seafood, produce, crabcakes, bakery goods and poultry.

Sad looking North Market (Photos: Philipsen)
When the residents of Fells Point responded to a survey by the Market Advisory Group and Baltimore's Public Markets assembled their wish list for what they want to see in their market, they must have gone out to copy those items from the window panels. In a rare victory of public opinion over developer strategies, Baltimore City recently rejected a proposal from Klein Enterprises submitted in response to a Request for Proposals issued by the City in December of 2016.

The concept of the Klein project was revealed in June of this year and included a 400-seat indoor and outdoor restaurant and fish market at the South Market location and an amphitheater and park for the North Market building at Fleet Street and Broadway. The rejected proposal is the second time that a private developer had attempted revitalization. A previous proposal by a group called WorkShop had not been extended after two years of inaction.

The Klein project would have privatized the public land and buildings in the median of Broadway and made the uses part of the large- scale mixed-use development which Klein Enterprise completed  on both sides of Broadway. No actual public market functions would have been left. Opposition from the well organized community came in the guise of concerns about the impacts from such a large restaurant, noise, traffic and the general rowdyness that the community has come to expect after Fells Point became more and more party-central akin to Sixth Street in Austin.
Wishful plywood

At this point only the South Market is open, a building that really looks like a public market but is too small to succeed on its own. It has only five vendors who mostly sell prepared foods, including at Vickie's Deli, a popular breakfast joint. Robert Thomas, a trained architect and head of the Baltimore Public Markets non-profit told the BBJ:
"We are taking on the project ourselves. The city and the Markets Corp. is working to do the redevelopment and focus on figuring out what goes where and how the markets are populated. And we want to take care of the existing tenants."
Upon inquiry he added in an e-mail to me:
The Market’s management team is lining up scenarios that incorporate, to one extent or another, feedback that we have received. [...] Recurring key words are grocery, community, food, gathering space + a few others.  What the neighborhood wants will not be a rapidly implemented solution. 
North Market southside gunked up by junk
The question is why it appears to be so difficult to make the Broadway Markets the flagship of all Baltimore public markets. The two buildings sit in an immensely popular area that has a steady stream of visitors all day long, including evenings, many flushed into the area by the popular water taxi. There is also a rapidly growing residential base with new apartment and condo buildings springing up all the time. Last and not least, Fells Point has a very active, very well established community of old-time residents who have fought many battles to keep their community safe and attractive. Historic Fells Point is an architectural jewel; speaking of architecture, the south shed and its setting look exactly like everyone imagines a market, lined on both sides with historic small buildings, filled with retail, bars and restaurants, although in some sections the historic veneer is only razor thin thanks to Klein inserting large scale development.
South Market, an attractive shed: Parking on the side instead of stalls

The precedent that comes instantly to mind is Findley's Market in Cincinnati, a shed with a very similar architecture sitting also in the median of a wide street amidst historic buildings and a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

Of course, there a few obvious problems with the current Baltimore set-up of those two sheds: They are isolated by parking pads, dumpsters, generators and busy Aliceanna Street. They don't allow continuous north-south passage through the center of the markets. Indeed, even the tiny south shed can't be entered on one end and exited the other, because the seafood vendor spans across the north end and blocks passage.  Unlike Findley's, the Broadway markets don't have any outdoor sales on the sides under roof overhangs or open up in any meaningful way. The Baltimore storefronts on both sides don't offer any functions which are complimentary to the market. In Cincinnati both sides of the street are lined with additional bakers, cafes, butchers and other retail establishments which act like an extension of the market. Cincinnati also restricted car traffic on the flanking roadways to service traffic in the morning giving pedestrians the opportunity to mill back and forth between the stores and the market.
Cincinnatti Findlay Market at Over the Rhine: Large roof overhangs

It is clear that the two markets cannot flourish without the various city departments coming together for a comprehensive approach. The City is just about to complete a rather unimaginative complete reconstruction of the plaza at the foot of Broadway which would have to become an important element in the revitalization of the median. A vibrant spine along Broadway's public center space would have to include a broad and secure crosswalk across Aliceanna (crossing the street in the center area today is unprotected and probably illegal).

Findlay Market: Open stalls on both sides
After all the years of foot dragging and stillborn proposals, the City's resolve to take the matter in its own hands is welcome, because it ensures that the community will keep public control of the space.

Now it takes some spark, some sound ideas and, above all, a concerted effort that includes the entirety of all public spaces wall to wall to support active and meaningful use. Needed also is a retail management entity that works on a synergistic merchandising concept with offerings throughout the day from daybreak on. Fells Point can ill afford to devote public facilities to the evening crowds only and really needs services that cater to the local community just as much as the visitors.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

My lecture about the future of Baltimore will take place as part of AIA's Architecture Month on October 18 at 6pm at the MICAH Lazarus Center on 131 West North Ave. My book "Baltimore, Reinventing an American Legacy City" will be available for purchase. 
The event is free but you need to register here

Findlay Market: Integrated on all sides

Monday, October 9, 2017

Tearing down Eddies in Mt Vernon?

A demolition notice pinned to the buildings 7-11 West Eager Street strikes the hearts of Mount Vernon residents for a number of reasons. Mostly because what once were four individual attached houses is now the only supermarket in the area housing Eddie's of Eager Street, a family owned and operated store which served Baltimore for over 50 years and is only one of three that remains of the 26 Eddie's markets which were once a loosely organized purchase co-op inside the Beltway. All three Eddies have different owners today. Like many older urban supermarkets, Eddie's doesn't get only praise from local residents, but it is a beloved Baltimore institution, nevertheless. Authentic one might say.
7-11, 13/15 West Eager: All to be demolished?
The application for demolition will be heard by the city's historic commission CHAP Tuesday 10/10 at 1pm. (For a report on the CHAP hearing go here). Researching the back-story yields a number of delicious details which reveal a in many ways typical Baltimore story, i.e. a story with many cross connections. To start with the issue of

Eddie's utility as a food store in Mount Vernon:

Mallory has this to say on Yelp:
I've been going to Eddie's for awhile and while the prices are a little steeper than your typical grocery store, the proximity for those last minute provisions is tough to overvalue. Like many reviewers, I would recommend using them for your weekly grocery runs, but their wine and beer selection is solid and they typically have those random items that you never think of but always need. 
Greg on the same review page see it this way:
Add caption
Eddie's can be a life-saver when you live in Mount Vernon. The selection is a little too limited to do all your shopping at once, but they have lots of cooking and cleaning essentials, a reasonable selection of beer and wine at good prices, as well as some local treats. (Brain: do you really need both Berger cookies and Taharka Bros ice cream? Stomach: shut up, brain.) I've always found the employees to be super friendly and knowledgable about whether they have certain items and where they are if so. It's a great little store, so I'm hoping they don't lose many customers to the CVS that recently opened in the old Club Hippo space. It would be a shame to not have them right around the corner anymore.
Cameron writes on the Baltimore City Voters Facebook page:
A lot of people in Mount Vernon are car-free. It’s already hard enough to get groceries. This is awful!
Those comments pretty much sum it up.
Right behind the fear of becoming a food desert looms the fear of gentrification. Cynthia on the City Voters page grouses:
Let me guess... Mt. Vernon will get a Harris Teeter, DSW, Mission BBQ, Floyds, and a Chic Fil A, just like every other new development in this area. How is that "variety" or change for the better? It's cookie cutter drab, for the unimaginative who murder small businesses. Sad.
After the conversion of the Hippo into a CVS the suspicion against national brands taking over local culture isn't entirely off the mark.

Eddie's as a contributing historic structure

Then there is the concern about demolishing historic structures in a historic district. Those are also well represented on the Facebook group page, for example when Rebecca asks:
Can't they bring in better retail options but keep the historic buildings and character of the neighborhood? Why do they have to bulldoze? 
So what is going on? Mount Vernon is a well established historic district. It has a well organized community association, the Mount Vernon, Belvedere Association (MVBA) with a zoning, development and architectural review committee.

All those experts participated in 2005/6 in a fight about height limits in Mount Vernon, a battle with the planning department whether CHAP should be placed inside the Planning Department and the resulting Urban Renewal Ordinance for Mt Vernon that includes a list of non-contributing buildings to make the development process more predictable. (All buildings not on the list were considered "contributing" under historic preservation definitions. For the list click the above link and look under Appendix). All participants at the time (including Baltimore Heritage and MVBA) thought this would settle the debate about what buildings in the district are "contributing" and makes the matter more transparent for developers and residents.

15 West Eager Street in 1958 (Report)
How easy can it be to tear old buildings from 1860 down that are clearly not on the list of the non-contributing structures and properties? The CHAP hearing should be a slam dunk for preservation. Not so fast. For understanding how it could be otherwise a few additional details need to be understood.

For one, the applicant, developer Dennis Richter lives in historic Mount Vernon himself, right next to the famous Engineers Club, the former estate of the B&O founder's wife. Richter understands historic preservation well, he also rehabbed 12 W. Madison Street, another historic building in the area which houses the National Heritage Area. Richter commissioned a report about the historic value of the four historic structures which now form Eddies from Jason Vaughn who works at the National Heritage Area. The report examines the history of 13-15 West Eager Street, 917 Cathedral Street and 917 Cathedral Street and 7-11 West Eager Street as well as 915 Cathedral Street, "the former home of a distinguished professor and physicist".
15 West Eager 2017

The report notes that "the property today known as 7-11 West Eager dates to between 1851 and 1867". That is pretty old even by Baltimore standards. The report continues to show the successive uses over time:
Sometime between 1890 and 1898, the livery business and its associated property were sold to the Standard Coupe Company, which advertised as a “Livery and Hiring Stables” at the address of 7, 9 and 11 West Eager Street. By 1904, the livery was operating as Stewart’s Uptown Stables. By 1914,
Stewart’s was billed as a taxi service, offering automobile service as well as horse-drawn carriages and hansoms. The Sanborn map of 1914 notes the building as a garage with a repair shop. The 1923 city business directory lists the
property as the Staley Garage with William B. Staley serving as the company’s president. From 1928 through 1938, the building housed the Vernon Garage. 
Around 1939 or 1940 the garage was remodeled into a grocery store.
The professional and unbiased report does not make a recommendation regarding demolition or preservation, it just present the historic facts.
Aerial showing the block from the rear as well as the surface parking
lots to the south and north

Another interesting detail is that developer Dennis Richter's wife, Michele Richter, is the President of the MVBA. Monday when the MBVA assembled all its committees to debate the suggested demolition, Ms Richter was present when her husband Dennis presented his proposed project but abstained from a vote, according to the chair of the development and architectural review committees, Steve Shen. We will get back to the vote.

What is proposed?

The proposed development uses the stepped height limits of the Urban Renewal plan and provides for a large scale mixed use project that extends all the way from Morton Street to Cathedral Street and would demolish the former Comprehensive Car Care building across from City Cafe as well (a non contributing structure per the list). The proposed development would include first floor "food related retail". Dennis Richter has offered Dennis Zorn, the owner of Eddie's a "first right of refusal" to become a tenant in the new structure and even offered to assist in finding a temporary accommodation during construction. According to Steve Shen, "Zorn is all for the project". An employee standing in front of Eddie's this morning was less sanguine. He guessed one would see here "just another surface parking lot".
The lots in question on an area plat plan (south is up)

The MBVA considers the proposed project "as a catalyst" for developing the surface parking lots immediately to the south and the north of it which the Mount Vernon masterplan of 2011 identified as development targets. Properties, of course, where the project would not have to demolish and buildings, properties which Richter reportedly tried to buy but didn't get.

So how did the MBVA ultimately vote on the project? Unanimously for it. How is this supposed to go through CHAP and the famous list? Dennis Chen knows how: "Decommission" the structures from the list of contributing buildings. A precedent is right around the corner at 912-928 Cathedral Street, lots and buildings that were taken off the list by CHAP in 2014. As for the fear that after demolition one would see here yet another parking lot, Chen stressed that approval would come "with the condition that demolition cannot begin before all permits and funding for the project" would have to be in place.

One can expect a lively debate at tomorrow's public CHAP Hearing.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

CHAP agenda

update: The CHAP Commission voted 5:3 to uphold the buildings' status as "contributing" and therefore denied the demolition application. However, likely this won't be the last hearing. The developer can request a hearing level 2 in which hardship and economic development arguments will be considered as well.

For a report on the CHAP hearing go here

Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association (website)
Established in 1938, the Mount Vernon~Belvedere Association (MVBA) takes its neighborhood seriously. We aim to preserve and restore our neighborhood.  In addition, the association works hard to disseminate information to our residents and businesses about issues that affect our neighborhood, and to inform our visitors of the many exciting activities that take place right here!

My lecture about the future of Baltimore will take place as part of AIA's Architecture Month on October 18 at 6pm at the MICAH Lazarus Center on 131 West North Ave. My book "Baltimore, Reinventing an American Legacy City" will be available for purchase. 
The event is free but you need to register here