Historic preservation in Station North has been in the news recently with historic tax credits awarded to the former Centre Theater in January and the announcement in December that the long-neglected Parkway Theater will be the new home for the Maryland Film Festival. We asked Charlie Duff, Executive Director of Jubilee Baltimore and the developer of the Centre Theater to share his thoughts on the exciting progress of preservation in Station North.
If you visit North Avenue during the day, you might think it hasn’t changed for years; it’s just a big rundown street. At night, however, North Avenue is starting to be a happening place, a focal point of Baltimore’s emerging Station North Arts and Entertainment District. Like Fells Point, Station North is livelier by night than by day.
Long known for the Charles Theater – and not much else – Station North is now home to several dozen restaurants, galleries, and venues for music, arts and theater. It’s busy every night and hopping on weekends, and the Station North music scene led Rolling Stone to name Baltimore the best Indie music scene in the country. But it’s not just a scene. It’s also a neighborhood and a part of Baltimore’s economy. More than 700 artists live and work in Station North right now. They’re young and vigorous, and they think Baltimore City is the greatest place on earth.
Even though Station North is Bohemian and avant garde, historic buildings are the key to the growth of Station North. Here’s a brief listing of projects that take advantage of historic buildings:
- MICA Studio Center – This summer MICA completed a $20 million renovation of the former Jos. A. Bank loft building on North Avenue near Howard Street. More than 300 MICA students now have studios and take classes on North Avenue. They come and go at all hours of the day and night, and the street is richer and more vibrant because of them. And the building, a splendid loft building from the first decade of the 20th century, looks fabulous.
- Baltimore Design School – Under construction now in the 300 block of East Oliver Street is the Baltimore Design School, Baltimore’s new 6-12 school for kids who might want to be architects or designers. This fabulous 1916 loft building, vacant for more than 25 years, uses $3 million in State historic credits. Go check out the amazing (and authentic) brand-new steel windows. Students arrive in September.
- The North Avenue Market – Occupying the whole block of North Avenue between Charles and Maryland, the North Avenue Market is becoming beautiful and lively again. New owners are restoring its lovely 1928 façade, and new tenants are making North Avenue hum. The Windup Space, in the North Avenue Market, is the hottest ticket in artistic Baltimore, and printmakers flock here to rent amazing equipment by the hour at the Baltimore Print Studios.
- 10 E. North Avenue – When Jubilee Baltimore learned that one of the largest vacant buildings in Station North was going to be auctioned off, we put together a team of investors and bought the building very cheaply. Add the cheap price to the $3 million in State historic credits that we’ve just won, and 10 E. North Avenue becomes a real opportunity to create lively space for impecunious but creative people. What should happen here? After much research and millions of conversations with local artists, we are pursuing leads to create a shared use artist space with well-equipped, well-managed, code compliant work spaces of various kinds. We are also in discussions with MICA and a couple of good restaurants and arts venues.
Station North may not look like a great historic district, but it is becoming a great place. It wouldn’t be happening at all without cheap, wonderful buildings and historic tax incentives. Take a walk down North Avenue and recharge your Preservation batteries. Preservation works!
Jubilee Baltimore is a non-profit developer and neighborhood revitalization organization helping the people of Baltimore to build safe, stable, desirable, mixed-income neighborhoods through affordable housing development and neighborhood revitalization. If you are interested in highlighting a great preservation effort in your neighborhood, please get in touch!