A section of Light Street was closed this weekend as crews worked to tear down the pedestrian sky bridge that connects the Hyatt Regency Baltimore hotel with the McKeldin Fountain. It’s part of a controversial plan by the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore to remove the fountain itself by the end of the year.
The sky bridge is just one of many structures that have come down or are targeted to disappear in the Baltimore area in 2016. Some have already gone, such as Haussner’s restaurant in Highlandtown and the former Deaton Medical Center in Otterbein. Others, such as the former Della Notte restaurant in Little Italy, are fenced off and waiting for the wrecking ball. In some cases, preservationists have launched efforts to save buildings targeted for demolition, including the Bel-Loc Diner in Baynesville.
It all amounts to a record number of high profile demolition projects in the region for a one-year period. And that doesn’t include many of the vacant house demolitions in East and West Baltimore or the flood-damaged buildings in Ellicott City and Baltimore.
Following is a list of 10 sites where buildings have been demolished or proposed for demolition:
Former Deaton Medical Center: The specialty hospital at 601 South Charles Street, last owned by an affiliate of the University of Maryland Medical Center, was razed to make way for a six-story, 350-unit apartment complex by ZOM of Orlando, Florida, called Banner Hill Apartments. An underground garage has been rebuilt, and the new building is just coming above ground.
18-20 E. Franklin Street: The rear of the Franklin Street property was torn down this summer to make way for a 41-unit apartment project called Franklin Lofts and Flats. The new structure will be connected with the front part of the Franklin Street property, which will be renovated. The former John Q. Lovell House at 16 E. Franklin Street will be renovated as part of the project.
Della Notte: The former Della Notte restaurant at 801 Eastern Avenue, closed since 2013, will be replaced by a 16-story apartment building with about 240 residences and retail space at street level.
Sons of Italy: The historic Sons of Italy building at 410 W. Fayette Street has been targeted for demolition to make way for a 16-story apartment complex. The former Drovers and Mechanics National Bank building at 100 N. Eutaw Street, another historic structure, will be retained and renovated as part of the same project.
Haussner’s: Demolition was completed earlier this summer on Haussner’s at 3244 Eastern Avenue. It was one of Baltimore’s best-known restaurants for many years but had been vacant for more than a decade. Developer Peter Garver plans to replace it with a six-story, 65-unit apartment building.
Baltimore City Jail complex: Gov. Larry Hogan disclosed plans to tear down most of the shuttered Baltimore City Jail complex in East Baltimore. A local preservation group, Baltimore Heritage, argues that parts of the jail are historically significant and should be preserved. Ideas for adaptive reuse have included a museum, a hotel, and a job training center to help people stay out of jail.
1732 and 1734 Druid Hill Avenue: Bethel A. M. E. Church has demolished the Freedom House at 1734 Druid Hill Avenue, a longtime meeting place for people involved in local and national civil rights efforts. The church also has applied to the city to tear down the “sister building” to the Freedom House at 1732 Druid Hill Avenue.
Bel-Loc Diner: One of the Baltimore area’s best-known diners, Bel-Loc has stood at Joppa Road and Loch Raven Boulevard since 1964, but Starbucks has submitted plans to replace it with an all-new restaurant. Preservation Maryland is leading an effort to persuade Starbuck’s to reuse the Bel-Loc building rather than tear it down.
The Franklin-Delphy hotel and rear of the Mayfair Theater: Demolition is complete on the historic Franklin-Delphy hotel at Franklin and Howard streets. Now city officials say they have learned that the rear portion of the Mayfair Theater is structurally unsound and needs to come down as well. They say they hope to save the Mayfair’s ornate front façade. The Baltimore Development Corp. plans to seek a developer or developers for the properties by issuing a request for proposals.
The McKeldin Fountain: The 1982 fountain at Pratt and Light streets was erected as a tribute to former Mayor and Governor Theodore McKeldin. It’s also significant as an example of Modern design from the period when the city was beginning to redevelop the Inner Harbor. The Downtown Partnership has led an effort to tear it down, saying some of its members think it’s an eyesore. The water has been turned off, and the fountain has become a staging area for the sky bridge demolition contractors. A replacement design has not been approved.
Which of these buildings will be missed the most? What shouldn’t come down at all? One rule of thumb for preservationists is that a significant building shouldn’t be demolished unless something better is going up in its place. By that standard, the Banner Hill and Franklin Flats projects are easy to support. Few are likely to shed any tears when the Della Notte restaurant disappears.
The Mayfair Theater, Bel-Loc Diner, Baltimore City Jail and McKeldin Fountain, by contrast, are one-of-a-kind structures that are more difficult to replace, either because of their design or their historical significance. The building at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue has a civil rights history that can’t be transferred to a replacement structure. These are the buildings on the list that represent the biggest potential losses.
Chris Delaporte Dies
Chris Delaporte, the first executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority and a former head of Baltimore’s Department of Recreation and Parks, died over the weekend after a battle with cancer. A national leader in parks advocacy, he had been working with a Baltimore panel, the Open Space and Parks Task Force, to commission a new comprehensive plan to guide maintenance and use of the city’s parks properties. Task force members say they are committed to completing that work in his memory.
$10 million grant for North Avenue
Baltimore’s North Avenue corridor will receive $10 million for improvements as part of the federal government’s annual Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.
Read more about the grant, here.
Construction begins on the Maryland Avenue cycle track
Construction began last month on the Maryland Avenue cycle track, a dedicated bicycle route that will extend from 29th Street in Charles Village to Pratt Street downtown. The track is part of the Downtown Bicycle Network, which includes cycle tracks on Madison and Monuments streets and bicycle lanes on Preston and Biddle streets.
Victory House fails to sell at auction
Victory House, a 39-bedroom, two-bathroom rooming house at 1702-1708 Light Street in South Baltimore, failed to sell when it went up for auction last month. The highest bid was more than $400,000, but it was not accepted by the seller. A spokeswoman for the auctioneer, Ashland Auction Group, said the property might be reoffered at a future date.
Zaharah Valentine appointed principal of Baltimore Design School
Zaharah Valentine has been appointed principal of the Baltimore Design School, replacing Melissa Patrylo. Valentine had been serving as interim principal, following Patrylo’s resignation, and was the unanimous choice of a search committee comprised of design school parents, teachers and board members.