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Michael Raphael, president of Direct Dimensions Inc., discusses his firm's work with Rep. Elijah Cummings at the future site of Open Works on Tuesday. (The Daily Record / Adam Bednar)

Baltimore’s Open Works touted as regional asset

A nonprofit real estate development company has big plans for a former warehouse space near Green Mount Cemetery.

On Tuesday, Baltimore Arts Realty Corp. held a celebration for the start of its new project at 1400 Greenmount Ave. The group intends to rehab an existing building and turn it into a “maker space” called Open Works that supports emerging companies.

In 2012, BARCO started it’ search for a space to invest in and create the maker space the group felt would meet demand in the area from artisans and entrepreneurs.

“We kissed a lot of frogs,” said Laurens ‘Mac’ MacLure, managing director of BARCO.

The company purchased the building in 2013 and began the process of designing the space with architect Cho Benn Holback & Associates. Their plans involve converting the 34,000-square-foot building into eight major work spaces and 150 microstudios of about 50 square feet. It’s expected to cost about $11 million to make the needed changes to the building.

The company hopes the spaces will attract entrepreneurs, such as fashion designers, photographers and fine furniture manufacturers.  Between a membership and rent, it’s expected to cost about $225 a month, or a studio can be used for about $100 a month.

The building will also house a variety of studios, including a wood work shop, metal shop and digital fabrication shop.

Elected officials from throughout the state praised the project as part of a planned manufacturing renaissance in Baltimore. It was also touted as a place that would help local entrepreneurs make their dreams a reality. Open Works was also praised as a project that would bring economic development not only to the city but the region as well.

“Open works will be an economic asset to the city and the state,” Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford said.

Construction on the overhaul of the building is expected to begin in the next week or two. The rehab will involve leveling floors that were slanted to allow trucks to back in to the building as well as demolishing the structure’s north wall.  The ribbon cutting is expected to happen in about nine months.

Michael Raphael, president of Direct Dimensions Inc., was on hand to display his firm’s services. Direct Dimensions provides firms with the digital imaging needed for three-dimensional printing.

The company is in Owings Mills, and Raphael isn’t sure if it will occupy space at the building, he’s committed to providing resources to help get emerging companies off the ground.

“We will definitely have a presence,” Raphael said.