The new owners of Baltimore’s Grand Central nightclub are wasting no time in making plans to replace its dance floor with office space.
Landmark Partners, the new owner as of Feb. 28, has contacted Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) and will seek approval to tear down rear portions of the property at 1001-1003 N. Charles St., and construct an eight-story office building.
CHAP Executive Director Eric Holcomb told the commissioners at their monthly meeting Tuesday that they’ll soon be asked to review conceptual plans for the property.
“We got a proposal from Grand Central,” he said. “They’re going to do something bold.”
When Landmark Partners acquired Baltimore’s biggest gay nightclub last month, the owners said they intend to convert the property to “a Class A office building with two ground floor retail concepts and lounge space.” They also said they would keep the club open until “the full development is set to commence.”
In their statement, Landmark’s partners did not disclose how much office space they plan to build or how they might alter the historic property. They mostly discussed the retail components of their project and did not say how much of the building they want to tear down.
“Both retail concepts are intended to be authentic Baltimore food and beverage establishments that are open to all,” they said. “Our intent is to activate and energize the corner for the community to enjoy… The retail concept that will occupy the current Grand Central Pub side on the corner of Charles and Eager will be a full service lunch/dinner/bar concept open later hours to maintain the liveliness of the corner.”
CHAP has authority to review the plans because Grand Central is in a city-designated historic district, and any changes to building exteriors must be approved by the commission.
Representatives for Landmark, which bought Grand Central for $1.4 million, did not attend the CHAP meeting on Tuesday. Reached for comment, the owners said they have nothing to add at this time.
According to CHAP representatives, the new owners want to demolish the rear portions of 1001-1003 N. Charles St.–including where the main dance floor is–and use that land to construct an eight-story office building, which is being designed by SM+P Architects.
The front portions of 1001 and 1003 N. Charles St., would be retained, and CHAP guidelines call for any new structure to be set back from Eager Street, planners say.
Holcomb said the commission will likely hold a hearing to review the Grand Central proposal in April or May. A rendering is not available yet, but he said the proposed structure would be visible from N. Charles and Eager streets. Under the plan, “the addition will be larger than the historic structure,” he said.
Michele Richter, president of the Mount Vernon Belvedere Association, said the organization “has no comment at this time” about the proposal but is working with the developer. She said more details will be shared “at a future date.” The neighborhood group, which monitors development in the area, has a general meeting next week, but Landmark representatives said last week that they haven’t scheduled a presentation.
Holcomb said the Grand Central proposal is the latest example of a trend CHAP is seeing in historic districts, in which property owners are seeking to incorporate historic structures into larger developments.
Other examples, he said, include the conversion to apartments of the former Hendler Creamery in Jonestown, a proposal to build apartments behind the fronts of historic carriage houses on Morton Street in Mount Vernon and a plan to retain part of the former Martick’s restaurant as part of a six-story apartment building at Mulberry Street and Park Avenue.
In addition, developer Dennis Richter’s plan to build an apartment building in place of Eddie’s of Mount Vernon calls for retention of the front portions of a historic townhouse on Cathedral Street and demolition of the rear portion (Dennis Richter and Michele Richter are husband and wife).
In Woodberry, which is not a city historic district, developer Chris Mfume is planning to incorporate two historic stone millworkers’ houses into a larger apartment building close to a light rail station.
Holcomb has been telling the commissioners that, given the abundance of requests to mix new construction with historic preservation, they may need to rethink the way CHAP reviews applications and come up with new criteria for what should be treated as a demolition request and what should be treated as an application to build an addition. CHAP has appointed a committee to study that issue.
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