Five Super Block buildings are off limits for demolition, city panel says

Five Super Block buildings are off limits for demolition, city panel says

A city panel ruled that five properties in Baltimore's Super Block have strong links to Baltimore's history and shouldn't be demolished despite efforts to revitalize a downtown area that has been neglected for years.

The Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) voted on Tuesday that an old set of vacant buildings, which developer Westside Partners LLC had planned to demolish, are too valuable for them to be destroyed. Westside Partners petitioned CHAP to make a decision about the architectural significance in Baltimore's Five & Dime Historical District. The company was looking forward to moving ahead with a proposed $100 million redevelopment.

The commission identified 220, 222, and 224 W. Fayette Street along with 105 and 107 N. Howard Streets as historic structures of value that cannot be demolished. After hearing the report of city planners, the group decided that 226 W. Fayette St. as well as 101 N. Howard St. were not important to the city's history and could be demolished.

The vote is the culmination of a long-running effort by several developers to turn the Super Block into an innovative mixed-use complex.

Westside Partners proposes to invest tens-of-millions of dollars in the block located near Lexington Market, CFG Bank Arena and build 262 mixed income apartments, new retail space, a parking structure, a hotel, and some office spaces. The CHAP meeting marked the beginning of a six-month-long process that will present preliminary plans and refine the master plan. In the last decade, other plans for the area have failed due to issues like historic preservation and funding.

The new plans will be implemented in the next year.

The CHAP vote on Tuesday was just the first of two steps to get demolition approval. Developer Chris Janian, partner of Westside Partners, and CEO of Vitruvius Co. has promised that the group will move forward, and request a CHAP second hearing for all the properties within a month.

Janian stated, "We won't change our plans because of this hearing." "We don’t see it as a battle. We have a completely different opinion. We believe that the CHAP must do its work and follow their process, and that our plan will have a greater impact. "We're building Baltimore for decades to come."

Janian stated that the buildings were all vacant, blighted and had small floor plans with no windows. This made it difficult to convert them into residential or retail units. Janian says that the rising costs of construction and interest rates could affect the viability. However, Westside Partners, including local developer Jayson Williams, his Mayson-Dixon Cos., and Pittsburgh-based Partnered Co. are committed to the project.

The environment is difficult. "We need to get help from all stakeholders, partners and government agencies. Hopefully, everything will come together," said he. We'll see what happens at the second demolition hearing.