Apartments once again proposed to rise above Mount Vernon carriage houses

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A rendering of the apartments proposed for Mount Vernon. Credit: SM+P Architects.

One year after Baltimore’s preservation commission rejected a proposal by developer Howard Chambers to build 65 apartments above a row of Mount Vernon carriage houses, the developer has come back to the panel seeking approval of a scaled-down version of his project.

Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) has scheduled a hearing for March 10 to consider Chambers’ revised plans, which call for construction of three levels of apartments above the two-story carriage houses he owns at 1012-1020 Morton St.

Plans on file with the city indicate the proposed development would contain 51 apartments. All new construction would be set back 30 feet from the Morton Street property line, and the shells of the carriage houses would be used as commercial tenant spaces or to provide access to the apartments above. There would be 18 to 20 parking spaces on the first level of 1018-1020 Morton Street.

By contrast, the previous proposal called for 65 apartments on four levels, new construction would have been set back only 15 feet from the Morton Street property line, and more of the carriage house walls would have been demolished. The estimated construction cost was $9 million.

CHAP voted 8 to 1 not to accept that plan. Members said they felt it involved too much demolition and feared the new structure would overwhelm the preserved portions of the carriage houses and detract from the block.

CHAP has authority to review plans for the Morton Street properties because they are within the Mount Vernon Historic District, and any changes proposed for the exteriors of buildings there by law must be approved by the preservation panel.

For his latest proposal, Chambers changed designers and is now using SM+P Architects, with Charles Patterson as the lead architect. SM+P is the firm that designed an eight-story office building to rise above the Grand Central nightclub at 1001-1003 N. Charles St.

That project, which CHAP supported, involves retention and renovation of the front portions of two historic buildings on N. Charles Street and new construction in the rear, essentially the same formula proposed for the Morton Street apartments. Construction on the Grand Central site is expected to begin soon, after the city’s zoning board approved plans at a meeting in February.

Chambers said he has tried to respond to the comments from CHAP and community stakeholders in coming up with a revised design. The new proposal keeps much more of the existing carriage houses, including the entire north wall of 1020 Morton St., and reuses more of the carriage house interiors.

“We’ve designed the addition to be much more in scale” with the carriage houses, he said. And by employing a different construction method, “we’ve retained 95 percent of the buildings… It’s a completely different project.”

Chambers said he doesn’t have a cost estimate for the new design. He said the market-rate apartments will be large studios or “junior one bedroom” units averaging about 510 square feet in size. He is aiming to attract medical students, nurses and other young professionals.

The March 10 hearing will begin at 1 p.m. at 417 E. Fayette St.  If the project is approved, Chambers said, he would like to begin construction in early 2021 and open the apartments by early 2023.

Ed Gunts

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