Plan to raze old Catonsville school draws opposition
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.