Construction of Bell Foundry Apartments starting this summer

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A rendering of the Bell Foundry Apartments.

Construction is expected to start this summer on the Bell Foundry Apartments, located at the site of a former DIY artists’ space in the Greenmount West community.

Developer Yonah Zahler, CEO of Zahlco Development, said this week that he has applied for construction permits and aims to begin work within the next two months on an $8 million to $9 million development that will bring 50 market-rate apartments and upgraded arts space to the 1500 block of N. Calvert Street.

Zahlco’s five-story development is one of a growing number of residential projects getting underway in the Station North and Greenmount West communities, to the north and east of Penn Station.

The Bell Foundry project has two components, both getting underway as soon as permits are issued.

One is the renovation of the Bell Foundry at 1539 N. Calvert St., a two-story, 8,000-square-foot structure that housed dozens of artists before it was condemned for building code violations and unsanctioned living quarters in 2016. The city closed the foundry after a fire in Oakland, California, killed 36 people at an artist collective known as Ghost Ship, prompting code enforcement officials to inspect arts-related buildings in Baltimore.

Zahlco bought the property for $725,000 in December and plans to renovate the second floor to meet city codes so it can lease the space to an arts-related tenant.

The Baltimore Rock Opera Society occupies the building’s first level, and Zahler said he hopes it will stay. After it was evicted along with other artists in December of 2016, the group moved back into the building in the spring of 2017. Zahler said a second arts organization has expressed interest in moving to the second level after renovations are complete. The renovated foundry will not contain any residences.

The second part of the development is a five-story mid-block apartment building on now-vacant land just east of the Bell Foundry, facing Federal Street. As designed by Justin SETO of SETO Architects, the building will have one-bedroom apartments with 500 to 600 square feet of space and shared amenities such as bike parking, art studio space, an outdoor garden and a possible gym. The exterior will be a mixture of metal, glass and brick.

Zahler said monthly rents will be in the $800 to $1,000 range and he is seeking to attract people who work or study in the surrounding area or want to be close to Penn Station for commuting. He said he plans to provide off-site parking close to the property, as allowed by the city’s zoning code, and to complete construction by the end of 2020. Zahlco will be the contractor as well as the developer and manager.

Zahler said he is working to build a project that is appropriate for Greenmount West, an area that extends from the train station eastward to the western edge of Green Mount Cemetery on Greenmount Avenue.

“We’re not trying to extend Mount Vernon into Greenmount West,” he said. “We’re trying to build a product that …belongs to Greenmount West. It will be for the people there.”

As for renovating the Bell Foundry for arts-related users, “we’d like to bring it back to life,” he said. “We believe strongly in the arts community.”

Zahlco’s other projects include 824 N. Calvert St., 222 E. Saratoga St., 613 Portland St. and apartments in the former Congress Hotel at 306 W. Franklin St. It recently was selected as the developer for the Mayfair Theatre property at 506 N. Howard St., where it plans 40 apartments and retail space. It’s nearing completion on new apartments at 9 E. Mount Royal Ave., and plans to open a furnished model and leasing center in mid-May.

Zahler said he believes the Greenmount West and Station North areas have enormous potential for additional redevelopment, with plans by Amtrak to invest $90 million to upgrade the train station and other private developers adding housing and offices on long-dormant parcels.

Along with Port Covington, “I believe it will be the most active development area in the city over the next five to 10 years,” he said. “I believe it is just going to go up from here.”

On Tuesday, the city’s zoning board approved a Pennsylvania developer’s request to construct 52 apartments in place of the vacant KAGRO building at 101-105 W. North Ave., without providing on-site parking.

The project, located about in Station North about a half mile from the Bell Foundry site, is designed to appeal to people living without a car. The building would require demolition of the KAGRO building, a one-story Modernist structure that dates from 1961 and has housed several users, including a branch of the now-defunct Maryland National Bank and the Korean-American Grocers and Licensed Beverage Association of Maryland.

The decision came three months after the zoning board approved plans by 28 Walker Development to build a five-story, 44-unit apartment development at 2001 N. Charles St., with 10 on-site parking spaces. Tentatively called Wheelhouse 2, after a project nearing completion in South Baltimore, it’s also aimed at tenants who want to live a car-free lifestyle.



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