Mayfair Theatre
The historic Mayfair Theatre property in more complete form, before much of it was torn down this year.

A piece of Baltimore history went on the market yesterday as the Baltimore Development Corporation issued a request for proposals from developers interested in buying and preserving the ornate front façade of the former Mayfair Theatre.

The BDC has set noon on March 6, 2017, as the deadline for bidders to submit proposals to redevelop two city-owned parcels, the former Mayfair Theatre property at 506 N. Howard Street and the former Franklin-Delphy hotel property at 300 W. Franklin Street.

The hotel and much of the Mayfair theater were demolished within the past year after engineers determined they were structurally unsound. But the theater’s front façade is still standing along with a 35-foot-deep front section of the theater, which included the front lobby. Both properties are in the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District and the Market Center National Register Historic District.

The BDC, which oversees downtown development for the city, said it is looking for proposals that retain what’s left of the Mayfair.

“The primary façade and lobby of the former Mayfair Theatre must be renovated and all reasonable preservation efforts should be pursued,” the agency stated in a release about the request for proposals. “Incorporation of historic preservation principles in redevelopment of the Mayfair is strongly encouraged.”

Maintaining the historic character of the historic district “is an overarching goal,” the RFP states.

The existing Mayfair building opened in 1904 to replace another theater, the Howard Auditorium, which was demolished. The 1904 building was one of a series of grand theaters that brought people to Howard Street before television was invented. People shopped in the stores around Howard and Lexington streets, saw a show and made a day of it.

The development site is 17,343 square feet in size, and the property is zoned for commercial use.

The BDC said prospective developers must submit proposals for both parcels, not just one or the other. It said it is looking for a “market driven, mixed use” development and a way to “reimagine the Mayfair for a 21st century audience.”

Other goals include providing “ground floor uses that will activate Howard Street and humanize Franklin Street,” to increase “daytime and/or evening population in the Bromo Arts District and help transform downtown Baltimore’s west side into a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood,” and to serve as a gateway to established districts east, west and south of the site.

BDC representatives will hold a pre-proposal conference for prospective developers and architects on Friday, Dec. 16, at 9:30 a.m. at 300 W. Franklin Street.

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