NTCIC Anniversary

Change is Brewing in Baltimore

Posted on: September 10th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Erica Stewart

Baltimore's American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

Baltimore's American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

This is the second in a series of blog posts featuring projects that have creatively adapted historic buildings to fit new uses, bringing essential services, jobs, and civic pride to their community. These retrofits have transformed an opulent theatre, a rural schoolhouse, a Beaux Arts post office, among others—and all utilized federal historic tax credit equity from the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC). The National Trust Community Investment Corporation, celebrating its 10th anniversary and $330 million in dollars invested, is a proud partner in more than 60 amazing transformations.

To behold the full power of preservation, look no further than Baltimore, Maryland. NTCIC has a $26 million track record of investment in four projects there, a city rich in historic resources, the political will to save them, and the financial tools to do it. The impact of rehabilitating Baltimore’s well-worn treasures goes far beyond their four walls. Historic rehabilitation projects can not only transform buildings, but entire communities.

Need proof? Two examples from opposite sides of Baltimore sing out. Take the historic Hippodrome Theatre—now known as the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center—the site of a $71 million rehabilitation that reinvented West Baltimore as a destination for world-class theater, and in the process, ushered in tremendous economic benefit for the city. Over a five-year period, the theatre is projected to yield $26 million in expenditures, about $18 million in personal income, 490 permanent jobs and $1.9 million in state and local tax receipts.

On the other side of town, a world away from velvet ropes and Broadway shows, the reuse of a former brewery building in East Baltimore has saved an abandoned landmark from ruin, and buoyed an entire neighborhood’s chances for revival as well.

One of the completed interior spaces in the American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

One of the completed interior spaces in the American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

The American Brewery Brewhouse was built in East Baltimore in 1887, its five-story tower making it one of the tallest gravity-fed breweries in North America and an imposing witness to the community’s boom—and eventual bust. Vacated in 1973 after brewery operations ceased, the building deteriorated while the neighborhood sunk into poverty and crime, drug use and violence surged. Various redevelopment schemes for the brewhouse were proposed and failed, earning the building “white elephant” status and symbolizing the despair felt by the entire community.

Then, in 2005, the nonprofit organization Humanin, Inc., a 40-year old social services organization based in suburban Maryland, happened across the building on a scouting mission and it was love at first sight. Having snuck inside, the building’s vast potential—despite ankle-deep pigeon guano and rotting roof and timbers—was evident, as was the surrounding community’s need for Humanim’s services (they provide workforce development training to persons with barriers to employment).

In April 2009, their dream to make the brewhouse their organization’s headquarters became reality. Two-hundred fifty of its employees relocated there—bringing with them their need for restaurants, retail, vendors, etc. --and 40 individuals from the surrounding community were hired. This impact is in addition to the project’s estimated $12.6 million in household and business income and $1.3 million in state and local taxes. I don’t have to say that this represents a huge boost to an area with 51% percent poverty and unemployment at four times the national average.

Equally exciting is that the brewhouse rehabilitation is not the only sign of hope in the community. Johns Hopkins has a medical complex in development nearby, a light- rail station is in the works, and Humanim has plans to take on the bottling building on the brewery campus next.

In its bold moves forward, Broadway East is not losing its past. In keeping with historic tax credit requirements, the brewery’s exterior was preserved, a wooden grain elevator that carried malt to the tower is now visible through Plexiglas, and salvaged brew tanks serve as meeting rooms (including the so-called ‘Think Tank’), the reception desk, a board room fireplace and the exterior sign.

The result? Rather than being best known as backdrop to grim scenes from HBO’s The Wire, the American Brewery brewhouse is now a clear beacon of hope, and living proof that a community can retrace its past to find its future.

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s community revitalization department.

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.

Investing in New Orleans' Past Brightens its Present – and Future

Posted on: September 3rd, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Erica Stewart

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the National Trust’s historic tax credit equity investing business: an endeavor that has brought more than $330 million to the rehabilitation of 60+ commercial buildings nationwide. Support from the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC) has helped revive vacant and abandoned structures that were once lively vaudeville theaters, bustling department stores, revered office buildings, and various others: a Masonic Temple, a brewery, a gas station, a jail, to name a few.

In celebration of the 10th anniversary milestone, PreservationNation will be featuring ten adaptive use projects financed in part by NTCIC. You may be surprised to learn of the amazing transformations that are happening across the county—even in these challenging economic times. They are a testament to the creativity and imagination of the human spirit, the durability of historic buildings, and the strong economic benefit of preserving them. You may even recognize one from a favorite city street near you.

In honor of another anniversary—but hardly grounds for celebration—our first project spotlight takes us to Louisiana five years after Hurricane Katrina. This is a place where, thanks in part to additional federal incentives, NTCIC has invested $60 million in $117 million worth of historic rehabilitation projects that are bringing life and economic development back to the storm-battered areas. These range from a former furniture showroom conversion into a dynamic community center currently ongoing in New Orleans’ gritty Bywater (a project covered here) to the elegant remodel of the bedraggled Hotel Pontchartrain in the fashionable Lower Garden District.

The Pontchartrain Hotel

The Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District.

The Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District.

The Pontchartrain Hotel stands 14 stories above St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans’ Lower Garden district and was the tallest building in the city when it was constructed in 1927. Its history is a mostly glorious one, as its lush furnishings and one-of-a-kind antiques represented the epitome of luxury travel. Stars such as Richard Burton and Mary Martin stayed there when they came to town, and both had suites named after them. Many prominent New Orleanians such as Edith Stern, the Sears and Roebuck heiress, and Frankie Besthoff, whose family co-founded the K&B drugstore chain, called it home.

"In its heyday, it was considered one of the very best hotels in the country," said Honore Aschaffenburg, grandson of the hotel's founder. "It evoked some of the best qualities of New Orleans -- the wonderful, gregarious nature of the people who live here and how they enjoy entertaining and interacting with one another."

Its beloved high-end restaurant, the Caribbean Room, was equally popular among celebrities—Walt Disney, Ginger Rogers and Tennessee Williams to name a few—and for its extravagant dessert, a gravity-defying combination of ice cream and meringue known as the “mile-high pie.”

The lobby of the restored Pontchartrain Hotel.

The lobby of the restored Pontchartrain Hotel.

The Pontchartrain lost some of its luster in the latter part of the 20th century, as the number of hotels downtown and in the French Quarter expanded. Hurricane Katrina’s rage delivered only a glancing blow in 2005, but the ensuing dampness, utility outages, and vandalism caused extensive interior deterioration. The building closed in 2007 while new building owners David Burrus and George Newton III mounted a campaign to save the Pontchartrain from destruction. In 2008 they launched a $21 million historic rehabilitation effort that converted the property into a grand 84-unit senior housing facility.

The Pontchartrain made its triumphant return to New Orleans’ high society in the summer of 2009. Its former guest rooms have been enlarged and configured to serve as both independent and assisted-living apartments for seniors. The Caribbean Room is back, but reserved for residents only, while its other cherished watering hole, the Bayou Bar, is welcoming patrons new and old alike to step back into the days of Frank Sinatra and gas-powered chandeliers.

In addition to a cognac-flavored taste of the past, the Pontchartrain Hotel rehabilitation is delivering significant economic benefit to the revitalization of New Orleans as well. The project is estimated to generate 387 jobs, $1.1 million in state and local taxes and $11.6 million in household and business income. Now, I’ll drink to that.

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s community revitalization department.

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.