The former Oriole Pontiac showroom at Howard Street and North Avenue. Photo by Ed Gunts.

The Maryland Institute College of Art, a serial resuscitator of old buildings, has just moved into another one.

MICA’s Architectural Design program has occupied part of the former Oriole Pontiac showroom, a castle-like structure built in 1885 at the northwest corner of North Avenue and Howard Street in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.

According to Debra Rubino, Vice President of Strategic Communications, the school leased about 9,300 square feet in the 53,000 square foot building to serve as a temporary location for its undergraduate Architectural Design program while a permanent home is constructed on Dolphin Street.

MICA is nearly finished tearing down its 100-year-old Dolphin Radiator and Fender Works Building at 100-116 Dolphin Street to make way for construction of an $8.1 million building called the Dolphin Design Center, which will also house Interactive Arts, Game Design, Product Design and a design lab when it opens in the second half of 2017.

Dolphin Street demolition site
Dolphin Street demolition site. Photo by Ed Gunts.

“There was relatively little we needed to do before moving in” to the North Avenue building, Rubino said in an email message. “The lease runs from May ’16 to August ’17.”

Other MICA–occupied buildings on North Avenue include the Fred Lazarus IV Center inside the former Jos. A. Bank clothing factory at 131 West North Avenue and the former Centre Theatre at 10 East North Avenue.

The building at North Avenue and Howard Street was constructed in the 1880s and is distinguished by a crenelated top that suggests the notched upper edge of a castle. For much of the 1900s, it served as a Pontiac showroom.

In the 1980s, it was renovated by Gus Diakoulas as the headquarters for Papier Interiors, an interior design firm. It was one of the first buildings along North Avenue to be renovated in many years. Diakoulas envisioned that it might become the anchor for a design district, a precursor of sorts to the arts and entertainment district that is taking shape today.

In recent years, the building housed state government offices, including the Office of the Inspector General and Child Protective Services, and the exterior was adorned with state flags. It became vacant last year when the state agencies moved to a new building at 1525 N. Calvert Street. According to state land records, the current owner is How Now Limited Partnership, headed by a local real estate investor.

Rubino said MICA is not interested in purchasing the building for long term use because it is constructing the new Dolphin Design Center.  It also has arranged to buy the RKK building on Mount Royal Avenue for expansion. KLNB Commercial Real Estate Services is marketing the North Avenue building to long-term tenants. In the meantime, MICA is bringing more foot traffic and activity to the intersection of North Avenue and Howard Street.

Elissa Blount Moorhead named executive director of Station North arts district

Elissa Blount Moorhead, an artist and arts advocate, has been named the new executive director and chief creative officer of the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, replacing Ben Stone. Blount Moorhead is a New York native who moved to Baltimore in 2014 and has embraced the local art scene, serving on the city’s Public Art Commission and as an advisor to The Contemporary. She begins her Station North job on October 25.

Meeting to discuss zoning for the Pepsi plant on Union Avenue 

Along with height limits in Fells Point and potential residential development on the Baltimore Country Club property in Roland Park, one of the biggest local zoning issues is the fate of the Pepsi bottling plant at 1650 Union Avenue in the Jones Falls Valley.

A local developer, Himmelrich Associates, has acquired the 13-acre property, which is currently zoned for industrial use, and plans a commercial development, possibly with a Harris Teeter market. The property has been targeted for rezoning as part of the TransForm process that is winding up this fall.

Councilman Nick Mosby has scheduled a community meeting to give residents of Woodberry, Hampden and Medfield a chance to talk about the property, as part of the rezoning process. The meeting has been set for Monday, October 17 at 7 p.m. at the Roosevelt Rec Center, 1221 West 36th Street in Hampden.

“This is an important meeting to share your thoughts with Councilman Mosby about the future zoning use for the Pepsi property,” states an announcement of the meeting from the Woodberry Community Association.

“The meeting will not cover design plans or traffic studies specific to the location,” the announcement continues. “Without a [zoning] designation, design & studies would be premature. Rather, a presentation is anticipated on TransForm designations that would fit the location and preliminary traffic impact for each category, per city standards…If you want a voice in what is happening in Woodberry, this would be an important meeting to attend.”

Royal Farms faces opposition in two locations

Many Towsonites are questioning a proposal by Caves Valley Partners to build a 16-pump Royal Farms gas station and convenience store at Bosley Avenue and York Road, several blocks north of the Towson Circle.

The county currently owns the land, which housed a fire station for many years, and sought bids from businesses interested in redeveloping it. According to the Towson Flyer, criticisms of the Royal Farms proposal are that it isn’t appropriate for a key gateway to the county seat, wouldn’t generate much revenue for the county, and doesn’t comply with design principles that have been developed to make Towson more walkable and livable. Opponents of the proposal want the county to issue a new request for proposals.

A rally against the York Road gas station proposal, led by the Towson Green Alliance, will be held today starting at 5:30 p.m. at Patriot Plaza, West Pennsylvania Avenue and Baltimore Street. Protesters will then go the Baltimore County Council meeting at 6 p.m. in County Council chambers, inside the Old Courthouse at 400 Washington Avenue.

Royal Farms is also facing community opposition to its plans to build a gas station and convenience store at Harford Road and Glenmore Avenue in Baltimore’s Hamilton community. Residents there, represented by attorney John Murphy, have gone to a state appeals court to contest a decision by the city’s zoning board to permit the project to be constructed as a “conditional use” for the property. That means construction cannot proceed until the court case is resolved.

Sapperstein drops out of bidding to develop the Baltimore Sun headquarters

Developer Mark Sapperstein has backed away from plans, first reported by the Baltimore Fishbowl, to buy two city blocks along North Calvert Street that currently serve as the headquarters and parking garage for The Baltimore Sun.  The Sun reported recently that Sapperstein notified company real estate representatives that he is busy with other projects and not prepared to take on the Sun property.

Cross Street Partners launches its first residential projects

Cross Street Partners, a development company led by Bill Struever and others, has expanded its construction division by launching its first residential projects.

Cross Street also has hired Larry Rosenberg to serve as Project Executive for its Construction Division. Rosenberg is known for his homebuilding efforts in established Baltimore area neighborhoods, including Roland Green at The Village of Cross Keys and WaterView in Middle River.

The initial residential projects by Cross Street are:

Gwynn Oak Avenue Homes: Three, accessible, single-family homes for people with disabilities in the Lake Ashburton neighborhood, through an award from the Baltimore City Housing Authority. The homes will be in the 5000 block of Gwynn Oak Avenue, are designed by K. Lechleiter Architects, and are due for completion in December.

Huron Street Townhomes: – Nine, 3-level, 3-bedroom townhomes in the Cherry Hill neighborhood. CSP was selected by Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake for the project, representing the first time the organization has made an award to a third-party contractor. Purple Cherry Architects of Annapolis is the architect, and construction is expected to be finished in the spring of 2017.  This is Purple Cherry’s first project in Cherry Hill.

The Townes at Hoen: 7 historic townhomes in the 2200 block of East Biddle Street, awarded through the City’s Vacants to Value program, to be rehabbed in partnership with City Life Community Builders and Habitat for Humanity.Trace Architects is the designer. Construction will be completed in the fall of 2017.

According to Steve Hulse, a principal of Cross Street Partners, the residential initiative builds on the company’s work in the adaptive reuse of landmark commercial buildings. “Residential construction is a natural outgrowth of our current work in Baltimore’s innovation and historic districts,” Hulse said. “Our mission is to create value-oriented housing that meets the needs of residents of all ages, incomes, and abilities.”

Founded in 2010, Cross Street Partners started with a number of staffers who came from the old Struever Brothers, Eccles and Rouse development company, and it has evolved from there.

“I look forward to helping Cross Street Partners as it breaks new ground again, this time in residential real estate,” Rosenberg said. “There is a tremendous need for high-quality housing available at affordable prices in the city, housing that can help improve the quality of life for residents and increase the vitality of neighborhoods for this generation and generations to come.”

Capitol One closing branch in Alex Brown Building

Capitol One is closing its Baltimore branch inside the old Alex Brown and Son’s building at 135 East Baltimore Street, one of the few downtown structures that survived the 1904 fire. The Baltimore street location is Capitol One’s only banking location in downtown Baltimore. The closing is set for later this month.

Former Mayor Kurt Schmoke resigns from Baltimore Development Corp. board

Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke has resigned as a board member of the Baltimore Development Corp., the quasi-public agency that oversees economic development in the city, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has accepted his resignation. According to BDC chairman Arnold Williams, Schmoke cited an increasingly busy schedule as his reason for stepping down.

In addition, Michael Snidal, West Team Leader for Neighborhood Development at BDC, has left the staff.

Apartments proposed for Little Italy

A six-story, 24-unit apartment building has been proposed for the site of the now-shuttered Milan restaurant at 1000 Eastern Avenue in Little Italy, according to the Baltimore Business Journal. Martin Marren of Marren Architects is the designer.

Gutierrez memorial walk on October 22

The seventh annual John K. Gutierrez Memorial Walk will be held starting around 11 a.m.  on Saturday, October 22, in Druid Hill Park.  The walk is a fundraiser for the Gutierrez Memorial Fund, a volunteer organization that supports arts projects in Maryland.

Gutierrez was a highly respected metals artist and craftsman who died of cancer in 2010 and whose work can be found in many local buildings. Participants can check in and register for the walk at Gutierrez Studios, 2010 Clipper Park Road in Clipper Mill, starting at 10 a.m.

What Baltimore and Hoboken have in common

What does Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Station have in common with the Hoboken Terminal, the commuter train station in Hoboken, N. J. that was the scene of a fatal train accident last week? Both were designed by architect Kenneth Murchison in the early 1900s.

Murchison also designed the train station in Scranton, Pa., a building whose upper floors have been converted to a hotel just as some have proposed for Baltimore’s station. Baltimore’s 1911 terminal is a close copy of the 1907 Scranton station.

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

2 replies on “MICA moves into another North Avenue building; Residents to meet about Pepsi plant; RoFo draws opposition at two locations; Cross Street Partners expands”

    1. Ha ha, I must agree!

      It’s like “shoppes” and “centre” and “olde” — pretentious terms beloved of marketing departments everywhere.

      But other than that, these housing developments sound like good things.

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