Urban Landscape: Robotic Bicycle Storage Facility and Shop Proposed for Penn Station; Possible Buyer for 1 North Charles; Bidding Opens for Bard Building; Old Towson Fire Station Torn Down

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Photo via Ammon Heisler Sachs

A full-service bike shop and robotic bike storage facility would open next to Baltimore’s Penn Station under a proposal from Race Pace Bicycles and Ammon Heisler Sachs Architects.

The two parties originally developed plans several years ago when Amtrak, the operator of Penn Station, was seeking development proposals for adjoining property. The project was never built, but the plans recently resurfaced in a design exhibit at the Chase Street gallery of the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Renderings on display show a planned multi-story building that would be constructed on the east side of the 1911 train station, accessible from St. Paul Street and the service drive off St. Paul Street.

The building would have a two-story section for bike sales, rentals and repairs. It would also have a 40-foot-high, glass-enclosed section for storage of more than 350 bikes, with a supergraphic of a bike that would be visible from blocks away.

Photo via Ammon Heisler Sachs

The tall portion would be illuminated at night, like a billboard. People would be able to look through the glass and see their bikes in storage, and also be able to see the bikes moving around the building as they are placed into and taken out of storage cubicles.

The storage area would be fully automated, like a robotic parking garage for cars. There would be no human access to the facility, making it very secure. The design is based on technology developed by Giken Eco Cycle, a company based in Tokyo. Bikes would be accessible 24 hours a day, with a retrieval time of less than 30 seconds.

“The Race Pace Bicycles Penn Station location would provide much needed access for tourists and residents,” the design team said in a text block accompanying the renderings. “The space would feature bicycle sales and service as well as rental and automated storage for over 350 bicycles. Rental and storage is perfect for visitors and commuters….”

Harold Sachs II, the architect who developed the design for Ammon Heisler Sachs, said Amtrak had asked for bike storage facilities when it sought development proposals around 2012, and the selected developers asked Race Pace to become involved.

Race Pace, which has several stores around the Baltimore area, suggested adding a full-service store and bike repair facility at Penn Station to go along with the bike storage space Amtrak wanted, and asked Ammon Heisler Sachs to design it, Sachs said.

Rendering via Ammon Heisler Sachs

Amtrak is no longer working with the developers who brought in Race Pace. It has since launched a new effort to identify a development team to work with at Penn Station, but has not announced a finalist.

The AIA exhibit, on view through April at 11½ E. Chase Street, is a design showcase organized by the organization’s Health and Wellness Committee. The exhibit is called “Good Design = Good Health,” and features projects built and unbuilt. The idea was to show the wide range of building designs that promote health and wellness, including bike riding and other forms of exercise.

Sachs said he submitted the Race Pace proposal for exhibition this spring because he feels it’s still a good idea as the city becomes more bike-friendly. “It is a great time to promote projects like this now that Baltimore City has designated bicycle travel lanes throughout the city and has implemented the Bike Share program,” he said. “It has a lot of validity.”

Race Pace has stores in Columbia, South Baltimore, Charles Village, Ellicott City, Owings Mills and Westminster, as well as one under construction in Towson. Alex Obriecht, the company’s founder and president, said Race Pace isn’t currently part of any development team pursuing Penn Station but is still very interested in building a bike-oriented development on Amtrak property.

Blaustein Building May have Found a Buyer

The Blaustein Building at 1 N. Charles Street may have a buyer.

The 25-story building went up for auction last week in an internet-only sale conducted by Ten-X Commercial that lasted three days.

The One North Charles building.

The Blaustein building is well known in Baltimore lore as one of the first high rises built downtown in the 1960s. The developers had wanted to build an office tower at 100 N. Charles Street, where One Charles Center now stands, but another team was selected, with Metropolitan Structures as the lead developer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as the architect. The Blaustein team then constructed its building across the street, just outside the boundaries of the Charles Center renewal area. It opened in 1963, one year after One Charles Center.

One North Charles has 291,137 square feet of space and lower-level tenants such as Potbelly and Dunkin Donuts. True North Management is the seller.

At the end of the sale period, Ten-X posted a message on its website saying the building is in escrow, a sign that a sale is pending. Ten-X did not provide any details about who may have bought the property or what the winning bid was. The auctioneer said more details will become available soon.

Latrobe Building Up for Auction

Ten-X has scheduled an auction for another Baltimore building, this time the 1912 Latrobe Building at 901 N. Charles Street. The dates for that online auction are April 24-26. The starting bid is $700,000. Property tours are being held on April 6, 13 and 20.

The nine-story Latrobe Building has 44,679 square feet of space and is about 46.5 percent occupied, according to Ten-X. It could continue to be used for office space, as it is now, or would be a good candidate for conversion to residences, the auctioneers say.

Proposals Sought for Bard Building Near Inner Harbor

Baltimore City Community College has set June 2 as the deadline for proposals from teams interested in redeveloping the 1.1-acre site of the Bard Building at Market Place and Lombard Street. The building is the last of two that made up an Inner Harbor campus for the college, but it has been closed for years.

Noted architect Anthony Lumsden designed the building while he was with Daniel Mann Johnson and Mendenhall of Los Angeles. A report prepared for the Maryland Assembly indicates it will cost more than $4 million to demolish to make way for new construction.

Towson Fire Station Demolished

Baltimore County has torn down the old Towson fire station at York Road and Bosley Avenue to make way for new development. Caves Valley Partners plans to build a Royal Farms gas station and store on the property.

Congress Apartments for Sale

The Congress Apartments building at 306 W. Franklin Street has been listed for sale by SVN Realsite. Originally known as the Hotel Kernan, the property has 36 residences, three office suites and a space that used to be the Marble Bar. The seller is Zahlco, which recently updated the common areas and many of the apartments.

Kevin King Joins Hord Coplan Macht

Hord Coplan Macht announced that it has named Kevin King a principal in its education studio.

Bon Fresco, UFood Grill open in Owings Mills

Bon Fresco, a gourmet sandwich shop and bakery, has opened its first Baltimore County location at Boulevard College Center, near Reisterstown Road and I-795 in Owings Mills. With two locations each in Laurel and Columbia, the chain is also looking for sites in Fells Point, Montgomery County and near Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

UFood Grill, a fast-casual restaurant chain that emphasizes using fresh ingredients, opened its first Maryland location at Metro Centre at Owings Mills. The local franchise is owned by Stephen Goldberg.

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts

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


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