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A Light Rail train passes by city-owned properties in the 400 block of North Howard Street that Baltimore wants to redevelop. (The Daily Record/Adam Bednar)

BDC agrees on downtown theater incubator

The Baltimore Development Corp. has structured a deal so a theater incubator can take over a row of vacant buildings in the West Side.

The agreement would allow Howard Street Incubator LLC to purchase three properties, located between 408 and 414 N. Howard St., for $300,000.

The deal also allows for up to $50,000 in environmental remediation allowances and a mortgage from BDC that would range from between $200,000 and $250,000, depending on environmental remediation costs. The mortgage would have to be repaid once a certificate of occupancy is issued.

Board members said there isn’t a recent fair market appraisal of the buildings. But state tax records estimated the combined values of the buildings to be $1.3 million.

Howard Street Incubator consists for three entities, the Baltimore Independent Theater Co-operative owns 35 percent, SocEnt Baltimore LLC holds 45 percent and Healthy Planet LLC has a 20 percent stake.

Dan Taylor, the BDC’s Central Team director, said the project would be the first to be eligible for both tax credits from the enterprise zone downtown and arts and entertainment tax credits because it’s located in the Bromo Tower Arts & Entertainment District.

The plan for the buildings is to renovate them into three small theater spaces. The spaces would be used by a total of six theater companies. Three would be permanent tenants while the other three would use the space to grow before moving on. The site would also be home to a small business incubator.

Creating the incubator is expected to create 65 full time construction jobs, 87 full time theater and incubator hub jobs and $2.8 million in new tax revenue.

The BDC board also recommended granting the Howard Street Incubator rights of entry to the buildings.

The properties were one of two request for proposals the BDC released in February. Howard Street Incubator was the only entity to respond to the North Howard Street request by the April deadline. A second request for proposal, for 10 city-owned properties scattered throughout the West Side, was released at the same time, and received three responses. In April the BDC issued another request for proposal for two properties on West Mulberry Street.

Brenda McKenzie, president and CEO of the BDC, said her organization is happy with the responses to its various request for proposals. She added that some of the other proposals for West Side properties could be presented to the board as soon as next month.

“All in all we’re getting good response on our West Side RFPs,” McKenzie said.

The city has been trying to revitalize its West Side. The effort have started gain momentum with the creation of the Bromo Tower district, the relocation of the Everyman Theatre and the UniverCity Partnership between the city and the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Confidence in the West Side’s development is high enough that when the previous West Side coordinator left the mayor’s office the decision was made not to hire a replacement.