Plan to raze old Ca­tonsville school draws op­po­si­tion

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Jon Blei­weis

An ar­chi­tec­tural study that calls for de­mo­li­tion of a cen­tury-old former Ca­tonsville school build­ing is draw­ing op­po­si­tion from some Bal­ti­more County res­i­dents, who had hoped to see the struc­ture re­tained as an his­toric com­mu­nity re­source.

“The idea that they would tear this en­tire build­ing down at this point in time is, re­ally, a com­pletely wrong idea, be­cause the com­mu­nity is grow­ing and we need space,” said Char Brooks, who runs the Facebook group Friends of the Former Ca­tonsville Ele­men­tary School.

The county system no longer uses the school, which was built in1909 and added to in 1971. Ca­tonsville Ele­men­tary moved this year to another build­ing on Blooms­bury Av­enue, and the Fred­er­ick Road fa­cil­ity was closed.

The county com­mis­sioned a study last year to help it de­cide what to do with the old struc­ture. Op­tions in­cluded re­mod­el­ing it for an es­ti­mated $19.4 mil­lion, or tear­ing it down and build­ing a smaller, mod­ern com­mu­nity cen­ter.

Manns Wood­ward Stu­dios, a White Marsh ar­chi­tec­tural firm, said the former school build­ing “has with­stood many years of use and abuse.” The firm notes that its size and age present “sig­nif­i­cant and costly chal­lenges” to bring it up to mod­ern stan­dards and codes.

County spokes­woman Ellen Kobler said a $19 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion “doesn’t fit into the equa­tion.” The county has com­mit­ted to spend­ing $1.3 billion over the next sev­eral years for 15 new schools and 11 ad­di­tions to other schools, along with in­stalling air con­di­tion­ing at schools with­out cen­tral cool­ing sys­tems.

Kobler said the county is in­stead con­sid- er­ing raz­ing the build­ing and re­plac­ing it with the com­mu­nity cen­ter and a small park for an es­ti­mated $3.6 mil­lion.

Klaus Philipsen, a Ca­tonsville res­i­dent and ar­chi­tect, op­poses the plan to de­mol­ish what he con­sid­ers a stately com­mu­nity land­mark.

“We need to think long term, for the vil­lage and the fu­ture of what Ca­tonsville is,” said Philipsen, pres­i­dent of the Bal­ti­more­based ArchPlan. “We can’t just do what­ever is the most ex­pe­di­tious in the mo­ment.”

County Coun­cil­man TomQuirk, a Demo­crat whose dis­trict in­cludes Ca­tonsville, said the county should ex­plore more than just the two op­tions of keep­ing the build­ing or raz­ing it. He said a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship could make re­use of the build­ing more af­ford­able.

Quirk said he hopes to hold pub­lic meet­ings over the next six months to gather com­mu­nity in­put.

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