Speaking to a crowd packed inside the shell of the long-neglected mansion at 3400 Auchentoroly Terrace on a chilly Monday, Councilman Leon Pinkett asserted that “not all projects are created equal.”
“To some who just don’t know, this may seem like the renovation of just another blighted property,” the 7th District councilman said. “But because of where this property is positioned on this prominent corner, it is the gateway to the Greater Mondawmin Community, even to West Baltimore… This project presents a catalyst for future development in this set of communities.”
Minutes earlier, Dan Midvidy of Meadow Development Group, a company experienced with historic renovations in blighted areas of West Baltimore, had detailed his plans to build 16 new apartments, three of them handicap-accessible, inside the historic property situated on a prime corner facing Druid Hill Park.
Meadow Development has hired downtown-based C.L. Myles Contracting to carry out the renovation, estimated to be complete by September. The plans call for 10 one-bedroom units, renting out at $850 a month, five two-bedrooms, going for $1,050 a month, and one three-bedroom for $1,350 per month.
“The building has so many nooks and crannies that no one unit is going to be the same,” Midvidy assured. He noted the front-most ones will boast views of the Rawlings Conservatory across the street.
Johns Hopkins, executive director of the historic preservation nonprofit Baltimore Heritage, said the mansion was originally built in 1909—its neighboring buildings in the historic West Baltimore neighborhood were all constructed between 1876 and the mid-1920s–and remained “one of the fancy rowhouses” on the block facing Druid Hill Park for decades.
But by the 1980s, it had been left vacant, and a massive fire on the 3400 block of Auchentoroly Terrace in September 2010 further destroyed it, which led to the building being gutted.
It was the city that “came to the rescue” to stabilize it, Midvidy said, bringing it into receivership and spending more than $100,000 install new floor joists, repair the exterior brick and make other improvements.
His firm acquired it at auction from the city in mid-2014. The purchase price was just $5,000, state property tax records show.
“We were the only people willing to bid on the property,” he told Baltimore Fishbowl after the ribbon-cutting for construction on the building today. “There must have been 150 people in the room, and everyone turned around and stared at me.”
Other delays have stalled work, namely the fact that the city’s old zoning code did not allow for a density that was financially feasible enough for Meadow to convert the old dwelling into apartments, Midvidy said. It wasn’t until after the new Transform Baltimore zoning code went into effect that Meadow Development could move forward with economically viable plans that could be underwritten and approved by a lender. Midvidy said with the new zoning code in place, the plans proceeded and they received approval from the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals.
Since receiving the green light in late 2017, Meadow Development has secured a lender in The Reinvestment Fund, and is taking advantage of other financing options. The developer is earning historic tax credits by meeting requirements from Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, the Maryland Historical Trust and the National Parks Service. And it’s also received a Baltimore Energy Initiative Loan, thanks to its focus on making all units energy-efficient with energy-smart appliances, high-efficiency furnaces and air conditioning systems, and hybrid hot water heaters.
Neighborhood leaders today said the building’s overhaul has been a long time coming. Barbara Dandy, president of the New Auchentoroly Terrace Association for the past 19 years, said it’s been “decades and decades and decades” that “this building has been an eyesore for our community.”
Hopkins, of Baltimore Heritage, said its vacancy and dilapidation have been particularly prominent “because the rest of the block looks so good.
“You can’t drive by here or walk by here and not notice this row, in particular, of just fantastic, wonderful houses,” he said. But with 3400 Auchentoroly Terrace, he said he often wondered aloud, “What’s going on with the corner building? It looks terrible.”
Mayor Catherine Pugh recalled the property from her time as a councilperson for the 7th District, before she was elected as a state senator for Baltimore and, later, the city’s mayor.
“I used to say when I drove by, that if this was any place else in America, across from one of the greatest parks in America, we would’ve done it.”
She celebrated the fact that it’s finally happening–particularly for those living right next to the site.
“This is just an important piece of real estate, and I know that the neighbors who have hung on, and continue to hang on and have no intentions of going anywhere, are so glad to see this finally taking place,” she said.
This story has been updated.