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5 Tips for Doing Adaptive Reuse Right


Baltimore has 1,500 downtown apartment units either in development or recently leased—many of which are in converted historic buildings. Panelists at our Reposition This: Unlocking Your Building’s True Value event this week highlighted these projects and shared five tips on how to succeed at adaptive reuse.

Two 19th-century cotton mills will become offices, apartments and restaurants. And several vacant buildings have been rehabbed in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.

1. Take Advantage of Vacants to Value


Baltimore City’s Vacants to Value program isn’t just about rehabbing a rowhouse or two; it's an opportunity for developers to spark major neighborhood revitalization projects like EBDI, says deputy commissioner of Baltimore Housing Michael Braverman (standing). The city has pressed owners of vacant buildings to develop the property, sell it or else face the auction block.

“Think about vacant buildings in distressed areas as opportunities regardless of who owns them,” Braverman says.

2. Fill Up on Food Markets


Developers have found creative ways to fill retail spots with food markets. The Time Group is constructing Mount Vernon Marketplace on the ground floor of 520 Park Ave, a 171-unit apartment building in the former Hochschild Kohn Warehouse. “The market is starved for high-quality local retail that generates traffic,” says Time Group development director Dominic Wiker. He's pictured second to the right. At the far right is Terra Nova Ventures founder David Tufaro. On the far left is Monument Realty SVP Josh Olsen.


Mount Vernon Marketplace will debut Oct. 14 with 15 food and drink sellers, including The Big Bean Theory, bakery Edible Flavors and charcuterie joint Cultured. Pinch Gourmet Dumplings and Taps Fill Station opened this month.


Another food market, containing a dozen vendors, will open at Whitehall Mill (rendering), a 19th-century former cotton mill that Terra Nova is renovating. The 18,000 SF food hall’s setting on the Jones Falls stream makes it an attractive location, says Terra Nova's David Tufaro. The $19M project will also include 15k SF of office space and a 6k SF restaurant when it opens spring ’16.

3. Add a Splash of Color


What developer doesn’t want vaulted ceilings and ornate design when they’re making over a historic building? That’s the fun part of adaptive reuse. But sometimes you get a building that's not as ornate, so you have to improvise. That was the case at 225 N Calvert St, Monument Realty SVP Josh Olsen told the crowd of 175.


The developer is converting the building into a 350-unit apartment complex (rendering), with a rooftop pool and terrace, balconies, and splashes of color on the exterior, which the city’s design panel has approved.

“There was not a lot to work with this particular property,” Josh says.

4. Follow the Artists


Artists have a knack for moving into derelict areas that eventually become trendy hot spots. The Station North Arts & Entertainment District is a prime example of a neighborhood that developers have latched on to and turned crumbling old buildings into residences, offices and schools.

Five years ago, many people though the developers of City Arts were crazy to build the $12M artists’ residences and gallery across the street from the Greenmount Cemetery, says Southway Builders VP Willy Moore (center). “People didn’t realize that this is the eastern border of the cultural arts district,” Willy says. On the right is JK Equities principal Jordan Karlik.


Several other adaptive reuse projects in Station North followed City Arts. They include the recent $18M conversion of the former Centre Theatre at 10 E North Ave, which houses the joint Johns Hopkins University and Maryland Institute College of Art film programs. Seawall Development Corp transformed a 100-year-old factory at 1500 Barclay St into the Baltimore Design School (pictured), a public middle-high school that teaches design, architecture and fashion. After a two-year construction, the $25M building opened in 2013.

5. Build Near the Train Station


Another advantage of the Station North neighborhood is that it’s home to Penn Station, says SA+A Development principal Ernst Valery. (He's in the center and to his right is moderator and Ballard Spahr principal Jon Laria.) That means apartment dwellers can walk to Amtrak and be in DC in under an hour. SA+A is building 103 market rate apartments at 20 E Lanvale St.

The $20M project will include a yoga studio and a second Milk & Honey Market, a café and gourmet grocer that Ernst operates with his wife, Dana. The apartment will be on a parking lot adjacent to the Chesapeake building, which received investment from Ernst's real estate investment company EVI. The property was home to the legendary Chesapeake Restaurant for 50 years. It shuttered in the late 1980s and now houses restaurant Pen & Quill.