Two Major Projects Slated for Charles Village Community Benefits District

by Alice Cherbonnier

Fresh on the heels of gaining bureaucratic approvals for the $4 million Astor Court Apartments project at the southwest corner of St. Paul and East 25th Streets, the Charles Village Community Benefits District (CVCBD) is shepherding the redevelopment of the so-called "Census Building," a large century-old brick structure at the northeast corner of Howard and 26th Streets.

The building's nickname reflects its function as headquarters for the region's US Census operations over a decade ago. Since that time, it has languished as a buyer/developer was sought by the property's owner. Now, pending requested zoning change approval from the City Council, it appears likely that a Richmond-based developer will transform the derelict structure into market-rate loft apartments, investing an estimated $12 million into the project, according to Dan Klocke, executive director of CVCBD. There will be many hurdles before the property changes hands, however, including addressing neighborhood concerns about inadequate parking facilities for the proposed plan.

Because most of the CVCBD area, including the Census Building, is now subject to an Urban Renewal Ordinance, the developer's plan, once finalized, will be subjected to design review not only by city officials in various departments, but by a URO design review panel.

Though the exterior of the building is unprepossessing, according to Klocke the interior has handsome architectural detail, including striking wooden roof trusses and expansive views of the city skyline.

Doug Armstrong, a photographer and film site consultant who lives on North Howard Street two blocks from the building, expressed regret that it would not be transformed into office spaces for technology and film-related businesses, as its artistic flavor would lend itself to such use.

The Astor Court project has a unique twist, in that it is designed for teachers new to the Baltimore City Public Schools. The reasonably priced apartments— at about $700 a month for a two-bedroom unit with all modern conveniences--will share common areas for socializing, meeting, and computer work.

For information about either project, call 410-243-4411.

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This story was published on July 3, 2002.