Area 405, which houses the Station North Tool Library, artist spaces and more, has been sold to a partnership that plans to upgrade it and keep it affordable. Photo by Ed Weiss.

Area 405, an artist hub and maker space in Baltimore’s Station North arts district, has been sold to a partnership that plans to upgrade it and continue operating it as an affordable artist community.

The new owner is 405-417 East Oliver Street Partners, a limited liability corporation formed by the nonprofit organization Central Baltimore Partnership and Baltimore-based real estate developer Ernst Valery. The transaction closed today and the sale price was $3.8 million.

Located at 405 East Oliver Street, the 120-year-old building is considered Baltimore’s largest hub of art studios and workspaces, housing more than 40 artists as well as an events and gallery space and the Station North Tool Library. Its fate has been uncertain since last year, when the previous owners disclosed plans to sell the 71,744-square-foot property. Artists feared they could be displaced if it were sold to a developer that wanted to raise rents or change its use.

In response, the Central Baltimore Partnership sought ways to keep Area 405 in operation and protect the current occupants from displacement. Its solution was to form a partnership with Valery to acquire and renovate the building for continued use as an arts hub and anchor for Greenmount West and the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.

The plan drew praise from Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.

“While Greenmount West is one of the fastest-growing areas in Baltimore City, it has achieved a delicate balance of income, race, and tenure diversity thanks to the contributions of the many stakeholders within this community,” Scott said in a statement. “I am happy to see that Area 405 will be improved, its mission of housing makers and artists will be preserved, and additional activation will be expanded in order to preserve affordability and instill equity in the neighborhood.”

CBP and a partner, the Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation, will manage the building for the new ownership team.

According to CBP executive director Ellen Janes, the plan is to preserve the arts uses in the building, significantly expand the number of art studios into areas that are now used as residences or for storage, explore the development of affordable apartments for artists in the rear of the building, and possibly add other street-level uses that would complement the current uses and help activate East Oliver Street, such as retail pop-ups for local makers.

The first phase of improvements to Area 405 building in the Station North arts district has a budget of $300,000. Photo by Ed Weiss.

The first phase of improvements, designed by L2 Design Studio, is expected to be completed by this summer and includes work to ensure that the building is in compliance with the city’s building code. Ziger/Snead Architects donated early architectural analysis. John Renner, principal of Timshel Development, is the development advisor. The budget for first phase improvements is $300,000.

The Station North arts district “has seen a rush of buying by investors that threatens the increasingly vibrant, diverse community created by many stakeholders—including longtime residents, new homeowners and renters, local artists, and nonprofits, with generous philanthropic and public support,” Janes said in a statement.

“Along with Ernst, our team plans to work with the current tenants of the building, members of the Station North Arts District, and the Greenmount West Community Association to both protect the existing uses and activate the building to enhance its contribution to both the arts and the broader community. We have a strong track record of creating opportunities for Black-and women-owned enterprises in Central Baltimore, and we will give priority to emerging Black and Brown artists and makers in recruitment and support for new tenants.”

Janes added that she can’t find another example of a community coming together to save an arts space the way Area 405 has been acquired.

“With a very strong development team, we took a calculated risk on a revitalization strategy,” she said. “We couldn’t find the model, so we created it. I hope to see it replicated again in Baltimore and in other parts of the country. It is feasible, and it is critically important.”

The 120-year-old Area 405 building houses the Station North Tool Library, studios for more than 40 artists, and gallery and event spaces. Photo by Ed Weiss.

The building now known as Area 405 was originally constructed in 1848 as a brewery by the Albion Brewery, later known as the Berger Brewery. Since then, it has always been home to local making and manufacturing, from Kemp Manufacturing at the turn of the 20th century, to Tom-Len, a furniture and marine upholstery group in the 1950s, to Crown Shade Company throughout the 1960s to late 1980s, to the artists and makers who currently occupy it.

According to Central Baltimore Partnership, funding and financing for today’s sale was made possible by capital allocations from the State of Maryland, administered by the Department of General Services with General Assembly leadership from state Delegates Maggie McIntosh and Stephanie Smith and state Senators Cory McCray and Bill Ferguson.

Additional funding came in the form of grants from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation; France-Merrick Foundation; the Goldseker Foundation; Baltimore City’s Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund; The Reinvestment Fund, and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. Pro bono legal assistance was provided by Mark Pollak and his associates at Ballard Spahr.

The Central Baltimore Partnership was founded in 2006 to galvanize the renaissance of Central Baltimore. It works with more than 100 partners, including the Johns Hopkins University, the Maryland Institute College of Art, the University of Baltimore, and Medstar Union Memorial. It works in 11 city neighborhoods, including Abell; Barclay; Charles North; Charles Village; Greenmount West; Harwood; Oakenshawe; Old Goucher; Midway; Remington and Wyman Park, plus the Waverly Main Street commercial district and the Station North arts district.

Valery is the managing member and CEO of SAA | EVI ( and Aequo ( He began his development career more than 20 years ago in South Philadelphia and shortly after graduating from Columbia University’s Real Estate Master’s Degree, started working in Baltimore’s Greenmount West neighborhood in 2006. Valery’s Baltimore projects include the Nelson-Kohl Apartments in Station North and the Ministry of Brewing and Lofts in Washington Hill, near Upper Fells Point. He is now engaged in urban redevelopment efforts across the U.S. and his Aequo fund is dedicated to supporting female developers and Black developers.

The project at Area 405 “aims to preserve the remarkable synchronicity of the artists who work here,” Valery said in a statement. “Artists who work in this special place speak of having realized a dream and significantly advancing their careers. By building out additional studios and creating new affordable homes for artists in under-used adjacent space, this critically important neighborhood can be enhanced rather than threatened.”

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.