Renovation of West Baltimore’s American Ice Co. building not derailed by recent fire, developer says

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Rendering via Cross Street Partners

Despite a three-alarm blaze last week that destroyed a portion of the American Ice Company building’s roof, the developer who wants to convert the dilapidated West Baltimore structure into a beer garden, art studios and event space said he can proceed as planned.

In fact, the damage from the fire appears to have overlapped with planned demolition work.

Steve Hulse, senior project executive for Canton-based Cross Street Partners, said in a statement that the second-floor fire at 2100 W. Franklin St. last weekend “destroyed a portion of the roof that was scheduled to be demolished during the course of reconstruction.”

An engineer called in afterward to inspect the premises found the overall building suffered no structural damage in the fire, Hulse said. Thus, “the damage will not hold up the timeline for the development.”

Cross Street Partners is working with D.C. beer garden operator and developer Ilya Alter to convert the 108-year-old building into an attraction situated just off the “Highway to Nowhere,” adjacent to the West Baltimore MARC stop.

Once a factory that produced ice—well into the 1980s actually, despite the post-World War II drop in demand for manufactured ice after everyone started buying home refrigerators—the structure has been vacant for decades, and was severely damaged in an earlier fire in 2004.

Alter, who co-owns a pair of beer gardens by the name of Dacha in the District’s Shaw and Navy Yard neighborhoods, bought the building in 2016 for $540,000 under an LLC named for its address.

Alter did not respond to messages requesting comment. In an interview with the Baltimore Business Journal, he called the old factory “a diamond in the rough,” and said he hopes his development can bring even more development to Midtown-Edmondson.

Plans published on Cross Street Partners’ website call for a 35,000-square-foot arts incubator with space for at least 40 artists and makers, 25,000 square feet of retail and event space—including a sit-down restaurant, wedding and reception hall, an art gallery and more—and a 100,000-square-foot courtyard to host festivals, concerts and private events.

The firm also pitches it as a solution to draw investment to a blighted section of town: “By revitalizing the largest privately-owned property in the area, it will not only spur additional development, but will improve the quality of life for local residents by creating jobs, new retail and community-serving amenities, and incentivizing developers to rehab scores of vacant homes within the vicinity of the Project.”

The state has given Alter and Cross Street Partners a hand in the form of a nearly $2.5 million tax credit from the Maryland Historical Trust.

Construction has yet to begin, but Cross Street Partners’ plans listed a planned completion date of mid-2020.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
Ethan McLeod
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1 COMMENT

  1. It’s interesting that the state historic tax credit is being used for a project that is mostly going to be new construction. It would seem possible that this would now not qualify for these credits.

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