With mill homes’ demo off the table, preservationists and neighbors call for new apartments to reflect ‘Woodberry flavor’

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Photo by Ethan McLeod

The developer behind a new four-story apartment complex coming to Woodberry has bowed to calls from neighbors and preservationists to incorporate a pair of 1840s stone mill homes into the building’s design.

But at a Tuesday night meeting at Itineris, organized by the Woodberry Community Association, locals aired remaining concerns about exactly how those homes will be incorporated, and whether the façade for the future structure on Clipper Road will reflect the neighborhood’s mill-village character.

Speaking to a crowd of about 50–including neighbors, architects and historical preservationists–architect Pavlina Ilieva, of PI.KL Studio, explained they plan to “functionally incorporate” both houses into the planned Woodberry Station apartment building at 3523 Clipper Road.

“We’re absolutely after their thoughtful, adaptive re-use,” Ilieva said. “It’s not necessarily a historic preservation project, but we’re looking to retain them in their entirety and give them a new purpose, a new life within the context of a larger project.”

Early schematics shown by Ilieva, PI.KL Studio co-principal Kuo Pao Lian and developer Christopher Mfume, of CLD Partners, display an apartment building with both mid-19th century edifices uniquely built-in. Lian said they’re “looking to try to re-utilize” one of the stone homes as a “commercial use” on the ground floor. The other stone home would serve as an amenity to the apartment building, Lian clarified later Wednesday.

The planned apartment complex would have around 80 units, most of them studios, with a price point of $1,100 to $1,300 per month.

Lian noted both homes are “pretty rough on the inside” at present. Contractors have recently been demolishing additions to both. An excavator sat parked next to a pile of rubble at one of the sites Tuesday night.

Photo by Ethan McLeod

Preservationists applauded CLD Partners’ response to local concerns about the buildings’ since-nixed demolition. Plans described at an earlier meeting on May 17—much more sparsely attended by neighbors—informed the community they were planning to knock down both homes, each of which is about 170 years old. One initial idea was that the builders would incorporate salvaged stone into the new apartments’ façade.

But after local outcry over the demo–initially scheduled for June 15, but then cancelled– CLD and PI.KL went with an alternative (and more costly) plan to build around both stone homes.

“Keeping the structures was a compromise that is costing a lot,” Mfume told a neighbor last night, after she asked whether CLD Partners could downsize its planned complex from 80 units. Mfume previously noted to Baltimore Fishbowl that keeping the homes intact would raise the projected cost of rent.

Johns Hopkins, executive director of the preservationist nonprofit Baltimore Heritage, thanked Mfume and the architects for working around the existing houses. However, he noted of the schematics, “right now, when I look at it, they look like just stone pillars in a building.” He asked that they strive to “keep that Woodberry flavor” while incorporating them into the design.

Nathan Dennies, chair of the Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance, said both homes are emblematic of the “original homes in Woodberry,” built by industrialists in the 1840s. He agreed with Hopkins about their placement in the schematic, saying their inclusion appears to be “very vestigial.”

Fred Scharmen, an assistant professor of architecture at Morgan State University, suggested the Woodberry Community Association and Mfume enter into a memorandum of understanding or another agreement to ensure “that those buildings are retained and used for another 170 years.”

Among other worries voiced at the meeting—including crowding of the nearby light rail with an influx of new residents, traffic density and price points—some preached the need for the planned apartments’ aesthetic to nod to the stone constructions around the neighborhood. Renderings show a modern-looking complex—beige and dark gray, with accents of orange—with two sections of stone on the ground floor. Each of those sections seen in the diagram is one of the existing stone homes, Lian clarified Wednesday.

An artist’s rendering of the property, courtesy of PI.KL Studio

The architects and Mfume already presented plans to the city’s Urban Design and Architectural Advisory Panel last Thursday, but are scheduled to appear before the body again on Aug. 16. Lian said they hope to “wrap up demolition on the additions very soon” so they can survey the buildings and start to engage general contractors.

He said they expect to host another community meeting before Aug. 16.

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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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 Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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3 COMMENTS

  1. What I don’t understand is how Pavlina can be on both sides. She’s the architect for the project, but is also on the UDA(R)P Commission which reviews new building projects in the city. I hope she’s recusing herself from the vote.

    • Pavlina Ilieva is recusing herself from the UDAAP discussion and vote about her project. That is standard practice when a panelist presents their own project.

  2. The real issue over this development isn’t the stone houses, but the lack of parking. They are creating 80 residential units and providing parking for 25. There is no street parking available on that Street!?!

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