Two Developments Supporting Creative Economy Opening This Year
Two major developments that offer studio space to artists will open in Baltimore this year. Le Mondo and Open Works are the latest real estate projects designed to propel the city’s creative economy.
The $11.5M Open Works makers space will house eight specialized shops that include fabrication equipment, conference rooms, classrooms and computer labs when it opens Sept. 20 in the Station North Arts & Entertainment District.
Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse and its spinoff, coffee roaster Thread Coffee, will operate a 1,200 SF café by the end of October, says Amy Bonitz, president of nonprofit real estate developer Baltimore Arts Realty Corp. The worker-owned radical bookstore, vegetarian restaurant and performance space occupies a 4,600 SF spot on North Avenue and has been a neighborhood retail anchor since moving to Station North from Mount Vernon almost three years ago.
The two-story, 34k SF warehouse will offer 140 studios for rent, with access to various tools, including woodworking equipment and laser cutters. The space would be ideal for artisans, architects, entrepreneurs and small fabricators.
“Maker spaces are cropping up nationally as the shared economy takes hold,” Amy says. Rather than owning things individually, it makes sense to have spaces that allow multiple users to share equipment they couldn't otherwise afford, she says.
Open Works will also offer a lineup of fall classes in partnership with other organizations, led by education manager Laura Cohen. It will be a place where a jeweler can learn welding or kids and their parents can learn about 3D printing.
“Besides serving professionals, we will be supporting folks who have a craft and teaching other people who haven’t identified themselves yet as a maker,” Amy says.
The project received funding from Telesis CDE, PNC, The Reinvestment Fund of Philadelphia, M&T Bank, the state, foundations and the Baltimore Development Corp.
Over in West Baltimore, a $4M plan to turn three buildings into studios, performance and classroom spaces on the 400 block of North Howard Street is taking shape. The first two buildings, at 404 and 406 North Howard St will open this year and will house a performance venue with a 30-seat bar, Le Mondo co-creative director Evan Moritz says.
Annex Theater, EMP collective and Psychic Reading Cos formed a separate nonprofit, Le Mondo, to operate the spaces. Le Mondo and developer Ted Rouse won the right to redevelop the buildings after responding to a BDC bid. Since closing on the properties and closing on a couple of loans in the past year, the performing arts nonprofit has been building out the space, which previously housed a uniform retailer.
Le Mondo has acquired a liquor license for the bar and is looking for a bar manager to operate it. The performance space, opening this year, will showcase dance and theater performances for weekend and limited-run shows from local arts groups.
Whether the performance space opens this year depends on whether the group can secure another loan, Evan says. Subsequent phases will add classrooms, restrooms and a sprinkler system that will allow Le Mondo to increase the capacity of the performance space from 100 to 300. The entire project, which totals 30k SF, will be complete by 2020.