Revitalization

I Brake for Old Buildings: A Preservationist’s Tour of Baltimore, East and West

Posted on: November 16th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Erica Stewart

NTCIC staff and friends listen to what is possible at the Dayspring Block building project in a rough part of East Baltimore.

NTCIC staff and friends listen to what is possible at the Dayspring Block building project in a rough part of East Baltimore.

As someone whose job involves a significant amount of writing, my work gets infinitely easier when I trade the confines of my desk (and the bounds my imagination) for the actual streets and buildings where historic preservation meets the road.  So I jumped at the chance to join a tour of historic rehabilitation projects in Baltimore, a city where the National Trust's Community Revitalization department and its for-profit subsidiary, NTCIC, have a long and rich history of involvement.  It was a stimulating day spent among preservationists and development professionals, full of photo ops and personal stories from the field that are pure manna for a desk jockey like me.

The afternoon tour took us past some of the city's toniest streets as well as sidewalk scenes straight out of HBO's crime drama, The Wire.  I had the chance to witness a diverse range of project types  -- from a world-class performing arts space, to services for the city's neediest -- stages of completion, and socio-economic context.

A former Masonic Temple is now the stunning Tremont Grand conference and event space.

A former Masonic Temple is now the stunning Tremont Grand conference and event space.

The first stop on the tour was lunch at the Tremont Grand (an amazing adaptive reuse story) and the main course was a discussion of tax credits, specifically the Maryland state historic tax credit.  The message that stayed with me much longer than the chocolate torte served for dessert was that the Maryland credit has done more than any other economic development tool to revive large chunks of Baltimore city.

The credit, which is available for both owner-occupied residences and for commercial buildings, made the economics work for homeowners rehabbing homes in neighborhoods that offered proximity to parks and public transportation but that had been mothballed for oh, a few decades.  The tax incentive helped homebuyers update existing homes in a historically-sensitive fashion, serving to retain the city's older housing stock and ensuring its role in the city's rebirth.  The commercial use of the credit, meanwhile, helped developers finance the reuse of the city's great industrial, office, and mixed-use buildings, bringing a wave of jobs and neighborhood-serving businesses to residents. These amenities, housed in evocative historic buildings, helped attract additional residents to the city, creating a powerful positive feedback loop that helped reverse Baltimore's population decline for the first time in a decade.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Hold the Novocain… Baltimore's Professional Arts Building has been Reborn as Apartments

Posted on: July 9th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

 

Written by Erica Stewart

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Mayor Sharon Dixon, John Leith-Tetrault of NTCIC, and others celebrating the ribbon-cutting.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Mayor Sharon Dixon, John Leith-Tetrault of NTCIC, and others celebrating the ribbon-cutting.

A crowd of 50 supporters, partners and residents gathered recently to help welcome the reinvented Professional Arts Building back to Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. Once a thriving hub for the dental and medical trades, the eight-story, 1927 building on Reed Street was vacant and poorly maintained for several years. Thanks to the shared vision of Somerset Development and joint venture partner, NAGE Housing, Inc., the historic office building now houses 96 modern, light-filled rental units—all of which are affordable to individuals earning between 80 and 120% of Area Median Income.

In a ceremony officiated by Congressman Elijah Cummings and Mayor Sheila Dixon, the building’s transformation was unveiled. Though the use of the building is a departure from its past, ties to the building’s previous life are visible throughout. The project utilized state and federal historic tax credits, ensuring that its character-defining features would remain. Thus, the ceramic wall tiles that surrounded the dentist chairs remain, original office doors have been retained, and a lobby marquee still shows the names and floor locations of the professionals who last occupied the property.

The exterior of the Professional Arts Building.

The exterior of the Professional Arts Building.

The potential impact of the Professional Arts Building on the neighborhood is exciting. The Mount Vernon neighborhood is a great place to call home—rich in historic commercial buildings, brick rowhouses and shady streets, but its entertainment and shopping options—amenities that city-dwellers have come to expect—are limited. What the neighborhood does have is ideal access to public transportation and proximity to arts institutions. The Professional Arts Building sits just a block and a half from Baltimore’s light rail, subway, train, and bus lines. It is also convenient to the Walters Art Museum, Maryland Institute College of Art, University of Baltimore and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. It is hoped that the Professional Arts Building, as Mount Vernon’s first high-rise historic multifamily apartment project, will spur the development of additional projects that will attract a critical mass of residents needed to sustain the retail and commercial establishments the neighborhood is currently lacking.

The National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC) —the for-profit subsidiary of the National Trust—is doing its part to help make that vision a reality. NTCIC partnered with Citibank to make a $4.5 million equity investment in the project to help catalyze the neighborhood’s revitalization. NTCIC is the federal historic tax credit syndicator, a transaction that transfers the federal historic tax credits to Citibank to defray its tax liability in exchange for essential cash resources to the project during its development. NTCIC’s involvement in the Professional Arts Building represents its sixth closed or committed equity investment in Baltimore, totaling $52 million.

Though no longer a medical building where generations of Baltimoreans had their teeth cleaned and their pulse checked, the Professional Arts Building—in its new role as multifamily residential building—is as essential as ever to the health of the neighborhood and City of Baltimore. And best of all? No Novocain needed.

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the Community Revitalization department at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Old + New = Green: CASA de Maryland’s New Balancing Act

Posted on: May 29th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Erica Stewart

This Place Matters! (Photo: mario Quiroz)

This Place Matters! (Photo: mario Quiroz)

A broken bone in my foot and thirty-odd sawdust covered steps didn’t diminish my appreciation for the transformation that CASA de Maryland is leading at the McCormick-Goodhart Mansion in Langley Park, Maryland. I joined a group of National Trust for Historic Preservation members and staff recently for a tour of the former grand country home that will become a multicultural center for the extremely diverse and under-served community outside its doorstep. Despite the fancy-footwork-on-crutches that my visit required, I was thrilled to witness this exciting marriage of many important ideals that underpin that buzzword on everyone’s lips: sustainability. The presentation and hard hat tour clearly illustrated how, after years of negotiation, compromise and fundraising, historic preservation, community development, and green building are neatly conjoined in this currently very messy rehabilitation project.

First, a little context. The Georgian Revival McCormick-Goodhart Mansion was built in 1924 amid a vast 565-acre estate. Decades later, the mansion was vacated and a crop of low-income, garden style apartments sprung up around the edges of the home. The surrounding community is one of the most diverse in all of Maryland, with residents hailing from all corners of the globe: French-speaking Africa, India, Central America and Poland, to name a few. Per capita income is just $11,300 and more than 150 languages are spoken at the local elementary school.

Back-view rendering by Bucher/Borges Group, LLC.

Back-view rendering by Bucher/Borges Group, LLC.

This environment makes the McCormick-Goodhart Mansion the perfect home for CASA. The nonprofit was founded in a church basement in1985 to serve the basic, immediate needs of the primarily Latino immigrant community in Maryland: food, shelter, health care. As that community has grown and evolved, so has CASA. That evolution necessitated a larger facility from which to serve its ever-growing client base. Enter Sawyer Realty LLC, owner of the badly weather-damaged mansion. At the cost of $1, ownership was transferred to CASA in 2007 and an ambitious fundraising campaign began. A key component was the complex historic tax credit deal brokered by the National Trust Community Investment Corporation that secured $12 million in state/federal historic and New Markets Tax Credit equity from Enterprise Foundation and Bank of America.

Once the rehab is completed, CASA’s new headquarters will house its expanded programs: financial literacy classes, computer literacy classes, a justice center for pursuing legal and civil rights issues, and cafeteria for service industry training. Several other social service organizations that specialize in serving other minority populations will take up residence as well, ensuring that the region’s many immigrant communities receive the best possible assistance.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

 

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Written by Jeff Eichenfield

KoreaTown-Northgate is a lively but long-neglected commercial corridor along Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, California that is seeing a lot of positive change these days due to efforts of a group of property owners who have banded together to revitalize the district under the multi-culti tagline “Oakland’s Got Seoul.”

The idea to form a “Koreatown” in Oakland has been kicking around for more than 10 years because there are a large number of Korean-American businesses and service groups along Telegraph Avenue. But it wasn’t until 2007 that property owners voted to create a property-based business improvement district that raises more than $250,000 annually to organize the effort.

Telegraph Lofts involved the conversion of the old Sears Roebuck building at 2633 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland's Koreatown into 54 live/work units, 11,000 square feet of retail space and 28,000 square feet of self-storage.  A new penthouse level and an open-air atrium are key components of this successful adaptive use.

Telegraph Lofts involved the conversion of the old Sears Roebuck building at 2633 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland's Koreatown into 54 live/work units, 11,000 square feet of retail space and 28,000 square feet of self-storage. A new penthouse level and an open-air atrium are key components of this successful adaptive use.

Darlene Drapkin of Urban Transformation and I were hired last August as contract staff. We are long time Main Street program devotees, having managed local Main Street programs and having worked with the National Main Street Center as consultants on numerous occasions. It’s been very helpful, and natural, for us to organize our efforts in Koreatown-Northgate using the Four Point Main Street Approach to Revitalization.

One of the most interesting aspects of the program is that the district is not all Korean… far from it. There are African-American, West African, Muslim, Arab, and Caucasian owned businesses as well. Our challenge is work with all these cultural groups on a common vision… one that respects the current cultural mix but recognizes the value of attracting more Korean investors in order to carve out a unique identity that will make the district stand out in the marketplace and bring in more income for all.

Our first order of business has been to make sure the district is clean and orderly, so we hired a sidewalk maintenance service and a street ambassador who walks the area every day, meeting and greeting business owners and looking for graffiti, illegal dumping, drug dealing, and other problems. We also instituted a program that removes graffiti from private property at no charge. And we have been meeting regularly with the Oakland Police Department to increase patrols and address security concerns.

Oakland's Got Seoul banners.

Oakland's Got Seoul banners.

Our second order of business has been to brand the district and enhance its visual appeal. Our Design Committee just installed beautiful “Oakland’s Got Seoul” street banners. Their unveiling ceremony attracted over 150 individuals, including many from the Korean press and the Korean Consul General’s office. Other projects being discussed include gateway treatments and murals involving local artists and youth.

With the district looking and feeling good, our Promotions Committee is planning our first annual Koreatown-Northgate Festival to be held this September 19, 2009. The festival will showcase the diverse cultures and business opportunities in the district. And a multi-cultural BBQ contest will be part of the fun!

Learn more:

Jeff Eichenfield is the executive director of the KoreaTown-Northgate Community Benefit District. Contact him by email at jeff[at]KoreatownNorthgate[dot]org (replace the words in brackets with the customary symbols), by phone at 510-343-5439 (ext.3), or online at www.revitalized-downtowns.com.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

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Historic Theatre, New Act

Posted on: April 17th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Erica Stewart

Our friends at the CenterStage Foundation have been keeping us informed of a fabulous project underway to create a new identify for a venerable historic theatre. The Richmond (Virginia) CenterStage project rehabs the Carpenter Theatre, a once-grand movie house, and integrates it into a brand new performing arts complex next door.  Built in 1928 as the Loew's Theatre, the Carpenter had an elegant interior and a dark brick exterior ornamented with sculpted terra cotta and limestone. Like many downtown theatres, it could not survive the demographic shift to the suburbs and the Carpenter was shuttered in 1979.

The  rehab returns the theatre to grandeur and beyond, expanding its stage size, improving acoustics and updating amenities and public spaces to create a more inviting environment for performers and patrons alike. This will create a top-notch venue for symphonies, dance troupes, Broadway shows and concerts from near and far.

The $25 million will be financed in part by a $12 million federal historic and New Markets Tax Credit equity investment by the National Trust Community Investment Corporation, the for profit subsidiary of the National Trust.

Once the Richmond CenterStage project is completed, the Carpenter will complement the 80,000 square-foot Dorothy Pauley Square that will contain three venues, including an intimate setting for small nonprofit theater groups, educational workspaces and a visual arts gallery.

Without further ado, let's take a look:

At the rear of the Orchestra level in the Carpenter Theatre, the ceiling restoration is nearly complete.

At the rear of the Orchestra level in the Carpenter Theatre, the ceiling restoration is nearly complete.

Work to re-rake the mezzanine and balconies to provide better sight lines as well as accessible seating is well underway, as seen from peering between newly restored ight fixtures at the house-right sky loft.

Work to re-rake the mezzanine and balconies to provide better sight lines as well as accessible seating is well underway, as seen from peering between newly restored ight fixtures at the house-right sky loft.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.