State awards tax credits to rehab historic buildings into food market, art gallery and community center

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Seventh Metro Church. Photo courtesy of the Maryland Department of Planning.

A market crossed with a performance space in an old church, an art gallery and restaurant in a former ice factory, and a community center in the mansion of a famous Baltimore industrialist are all one step closer to fruition, after the Maryland Historical Trust awarded nearly $5.5 million in 2019 tax credits to help rehabilitate those historic structures.

Seventh Metro Church, at 30 E. North Ave. in Old Goucher, received $2 million toward its $10 million budget for preserving the structure, and restoring the stained-glass windows and plasterwork.

Plans call for the two buildings that make up the sanctuary, the first of which was constructed in 1882, to be converted into a food market with an adaptable performance space. Kelly Cross, president of the Old Goucher Community Association, likened it to a farmer’s market that will be open throughout the week offering fresh food and staples like milk, and to public markets in Berlin and Barcelona.

At night, the altar can be used for concerts and other performances.

“We’re trying go get the best that Baltimore has to offer, and for it to be very unique and different than what we have now,” said Cross. He emphasized that it would be a space for entrepreneurs and small businesses to “get their foot in the door.”

The congregation, which Cross said only numbers about a dozen people, could either continue holding services in part of the church or occupy a new building. Regardless, they will maintain ownership of the sanctuary, he said.

While Cross said he could not yet reveal the names of vendors or the promoter that would book performances, he did tell Baltimore Fishbowl about 20 sellers have signed on for the project.

There’s still plenty of work to be done if the market is to open by 2020, as planned, but Cross said the building is structurally sound.

“Even though the congregation could never get ahead enough on major repairs, they were always sacrificing and pulling together to patch stuff up,” he said.

The remainder of the funds needed to rehab the building, noted for its Victorian features and Gothic Revival architecture by the Department of Planning, will come from private investment, grants and other tax credit programs, Cross said.

Given the building’s prime location on North Avenue, he hopes the market will eventually spur other development along the east-west thoroughfare and become a place “where the Black Butterfly and the white can meet in the middle, a place where people in the city can actually come together.”

Emerson Mansion. Photo courtesy of the Maryland Department of Planning.

Over in Reservoir Hill, the owners of Emerson Mansion, a Queen Anne-style estate built by Bromo-Seltzer founder Captain Isaac Edward Emerson at 2500 Eutaw Place, hope to restore the late 19th-century mansion to its former glory and use the building as a community center with drop-in programming.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” said Alan Pressman, one of the founders of the nonprofit pursuing the development. “But these funds bring us very close to achieving our goals.”

The group received $1 million toward the estimated $5 million needed for repairs.

Once complete, Pressman, an engineer by trade, hopes to have a preschool in the space and a community center with classes on subjects like art and 3-D printing that neighbors can take as they please.

“Our concept is to have low-barrier opportunities to engage community members,” he said.

As the nonprofit is able to generate more funds, it will add more programming and increase frequency of classes.

The upper floors of the former home will be converted into apartments.

American Ice Company plant. Photo courtesy of the Maryland Department of Planning.

The former home of the American Ice Company, at 2100 W. Franklin St., just east of the West Baltimore MARC station, received a nearly $2.5 million tax credit to renovate the structure and give it “multiple new uses as an art gallery, restaurant and event space,” a $13 million project.

State tax and business records show the building is owned by Ilya Alter, who registered the company 2100 W. Franklin LLC to a Massachusetts Avenue NW address in Washington, D.C. in 2006. A LinkedIn profile with the same name indicates Alter is the co-owner of Dacha Beer Garden, a D.C.-based restaurant and Bavarian-style beer garden serving traditional German, Belgian and American brews, as well as craft cocktails and cider.

Alter could not be reached for comment.

Two projects in Frederick also received credits, bringing the total awarded to $9 million. Since 1996, the Maryland Historical Trust has given out $401 million in Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credits, helping to restore more than 4,700 historic houses and nearly 700 historic commercial buildings, the Maryland Department of Planning said.

“Planning supports historic rehabilitation while advancing community revitalization and economic development,” Planning Secretary Rob McCord said in a statement. “This funding helps encourage preservation and adaptive re-use of historic buildings and enhances the enjoyment of our state’s history, culture and scenic beauty.”

Brandon Weigel

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  1. Despite Kelly Cross deciding to rezone Old Goucher to Mt. Royal (with no authority to do so), 30 E North Avenue is definitely not in Old Goucher. You should be talking to the Charles North or Greenmount West Community Associations instead.

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