An Evolving Station North

What Weekly
By David London

28 November 2012

Station North continues its radical transformation.

Announced yesterday, the State of Maryland will be making a $440,000 investment for five projects in Central Baltimore.

Of note is $100,000 designated to Load of Fun, to upgrade the building to comply with current codes for existing and projected uses. This project will allow for the installation of a modern fire protection sprinkler and fire alarm system to the 24,000 square foot building constructed at the turn of the last century.

Additionally, the 66,000 square foot Art Deco building at 10 E. North Avenue that was purchased by Jubilee Baltimore earlier in 2012 , will also receive $100,000 from the state to stabilize the roof and prevent it from further deterioration, so that it may be transformed into a multi-use arts hub.

The Baltimore Design School, located directly next to the CopyCat Building on Barclay and Oliver Street, also received $100,000 to complete streetscaping, ornamental fencing, and high-visibility signage as part of the restoration of 117,000 square foot former coat factory, vacant since 1986. Work is taking place on this building daily, as it moves towards its grand opening in Fall 2013.

The remaining funds were split between a residential development project on the 2800 block of Remington Avenue, as well as for façade renovations to two artist live/work spaces at 5 East North Avenue and 29 East North Avenue.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown and Secretary Raymond Skinner of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) announced the award of $440,000 in Community Legacy funding to The Central Baltimore Partnership, who will coordinate the grants.

“The Community Legacy program has been, and continues to be, critical to our redevelopment strategy and is stimulating and leveraging investments in all aspects of the community and in all neighborhoods” said Maryland Institute College of Art President and Central Baltimore Partnership Chair Fred Lazarus at the event – attended by local and statewide stakeholders.

In other Station North news, The building at 1 W. North Avenue, at the crossroads of North Avenue and Charles Street, is also morphing once again. The building, which is connected at the east to the Parkway Theater,saw its first transformation back in May, when Gaia completed the first mural of the Open Walls Baltimore Mural Project on its secondlevel exterior. The building gained international attention for Gaia’s painting, and now, just below the now iconic image, a new project is underway to create a Station North Headquarters!

Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc. has now partnered with Annex Theater to transform the former home of New York Fried Chicken into flexible office, theater & gallery space. With the help of grants, some savings, and some sweat equity to get this project started, Station North is now turning to its fans and supporters to raise the extra funds needed to finish the work. Earlier this month, a Kickstarter Project was launched to raise the necessary funds to complete renovations.

The plans for the first floor of this strategically placed building are bold and exciting. Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc., will use the area which currently houses the walk-in freezer for their offices. The front of the space will be devoted to The Annex Theater, who will produce a full season of programming there.

The Baltimore Annex Theater is known for its experimental and community-based productions, such as Threepenny Opera and Salome, with many of its performances presented in underground warehouse spaces. Now it has its very own chance at being a part of this intentionally above-ground, loud and proud Arts & Entertainment District. The Annex Theater’s new season includes UBIK, Equus, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Argonne, as well as a 10 Minute Play Festival.

When the Annex isn’t performing, the front space will be used as a gallery space for exhibitions, events, and anything else the Station North community can dream up.

There are admittedly challenges associated with a renovation project that are characteristic of remodeling a former restaurant and historic building. The funds raised from the Station North Kickstarter Project, which will without a doubt reach its $10,00 goal, will go towards finishing demolition, building an ADA compliant bathroom, capping plumbing, fixing the electrical system, building new walls, and cleaning and painting the floor. Any additional funds that remain after the project is complete will go towards general operational expenses of the space.

Ben Stone, Executive Director of Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc., cites that the exact timeline to complete the project “is hard to pin down.” He continues, “We’re hoping to have the space open in January, but this is dependent on our ability to complete our Kickstarter campaign and raise the remaining necessary funds. It will also depend on the speed that the City moves our permits and our contractors work on the space. So maybe its best to say that we hope to have it open this winter.”

Stone continues, “We’re excited about our move to 1 W North Avenue for a number of reasons: its going to allow us to occupy a storefront space where we can more readily interact with our neighbors and visitors to Station North. The newly transformed space will also allow the award winning Annex Theatre Company to move back to Station North, where they’ll bring a crowd to this crucial intersection on a regular basis. And its going to help stitch together the nodes of activity on the 1700 and 1800 blocks of Charles with the North Avenue Market, and other destinations farther west on North Avenue. The support from the community, both from neighbors in Charles North and Greemount West, as well as from the greater Baltimore arts community, has been fantastic so far.”