Once again, the BDC is soliciting bids to redevelop the former Mayfair Theatre

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Photo by Eli Pousson, via Flickr

A year after it received exactly zero bids from developers to re-do the historic Mayfair Theatre property at the southern end of Mount Vernon, the Baltimore Development Corporation is again soliciting proposals for the landmark and two adjacent lots in the 300 block of W. Franklin Street.

A request for proposals opened today advertises the 114-year-old building and surrounding land on a 0.4-acre lot for “adaptive reuse of historically significant property.” The offering includes vacant lots at the corner of Franklin and Howard streets that previously housed the Franklin/Delphy Hotel, and sit across an alley from the renovated Congress Apartment. The parcels are zoned for mixed use.

The RFP invites ideas that would employ a “creative and feasible approach to repurposing the former Mayfair Theatre,” would be compatible with the vibe of the surrounding Bromo Arts and Entertainment District and boost activity in the area while creating new tax revenue and jobs for the city, among other criteria. The BDC hopes the plan will “activate ground floors” for pedestrian access.

“The City seeks to preserve the character of the historic district, and incorporation of historic preservation principles in redevelopment of the site is strongly encouraged,” the RFP says. “Early and frequent consultation with [the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation] is recommended if a development plan will incorporate newly constructed elements with the existing Mayfair façade.”

That façade and a 35-foot section of the lobby are what remain of the historic building, which is designated as a local landmark by CHAP. It opened in 1904 in place of the demolished Howard Auditorium, which had housed one of the country’s only indoor ice rinks, a Turkish bath house and swimming school.

In the early 20th century, the Mayfair was among a number of popular theaters along Howard Street. According to local nonprofit Baltimore Heritage, its “heyday” was spent hosting vaudeville shows and plays. The live theater was converted into a movie house in 1941, according to the nonprofit, until it was shuttered in 1986.

The roof collapsed 12 years later, and in 2014, a fire damaged the building and the adjacent New Academy Hotel, which was then demolished. The city opted to tear down most of the Mayfair building after finding serious structural issues, but kept the façade and the remainder of the lobby intact.

The BDC is requiring any developer-architect team that tackles the project to incorporate both of those pieces into its design, and is encouraging them to work with CHAP on their plan.

The project is eligible for incentives, including a 10-year CHAP credit that reduces local property taxes and a federal tax credit administered by the National Park Service, among others.

The BDC plans to host a pre-proposal site visit on March 16 at 10 a.m., and is accepting bids until April 30 at noon.

An earlier headline said the city is soliciting development bids for the property, when in fact it is the Baltimore Development Corporation that issued the RFP.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Associate Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan is Baltimore Fishbowl's associate editor. He previously covered Baltimore-area news as a web producer for Fox45/WBFF-TV. Before arriving in Baltimore, he worked as an assistant editor for CQ Researcher in Washington D.C., and a reporter for Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. Look for his freelance bylines in Baltimore City Paper and DCist.
Ethan McLeod
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