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City panel set to weigh new designs for Superblock site

Melody Simmons//Daily Record Business Writer//May 2, 2011

City panel set to weigh new designs for Superblock site

By Melody Simmons

//Daily Record Business Writer

//May 2, 2011

New designs for the controversial Superblock development are scheduled to be unveiled next Tuesday before the Baltimore Commission for Historical & Architectural Preservation.

The project, a $150 million redevelopment of a decrepit and vacant West Side block, has been under scrutiny by historic preservationists and is the subject of a lawsuit filed last month by a group headed by attorney and Baltimore Orioles majority owner Peter G. Angelos.

The redevelopment has been stalled for a decade.

Late last year, Atlanta-based Dawson Development unveiled a 500,000-square-foot mixed-use project to include office, retail, residential units and a 120-room boutique hotel. The property is located at Park Avenue and Fayette, Lexington and Howard streets.

When the design was unveiled, city and state preservationists protested the demolition of the former Read’s Drug Store to make way for a new retail development at the site. The lunch counter at Read’s was the site of a civil rights era sit-in in 1955 by students from Morgan State University.

After architects proposed saving the exterior walls of the former Read’s store as a compromise, CHAP voted last month to give the Read’s building temporary historical landmark status, which freezes any demolition attempts for six months.

Next week, CHAP members will also consider adding seven other buildings to that landmark list at the Superblock site.

Johns Hopkins, president of Baltimore Heritage and a proponent of saving the Read’s building, said Monday he awaited the designs of the new Read’s site.

“CHAP is doing its job under its ordinance,” he said of the procedure. “It has to approve designs for buildings on the special [landmarks] list.”

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has pushed for the Superblock development to get underway. In an opinion piece published in Sunday’s Sun, she wrote: “The planned Superblock redevelopment must move forward. We can no longer allow benign neglect through inaction . . . and the compromise put forward to preserve the exterior walls of the Read’s Drug Store building in honor of the 1955 sit-in, together with an appropriate commemoration, is the right way to honor the past and provide new job opportunities for the future.”

The CHAP hearing will take place on the eighth floor of 417 E. Fayette St. in the city’s Department of Planning beginning at 2:15 p.m.


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