Arts res­i­dence hits right note on Green­mount

Build­ing is lat­est ef­fort to rein­vig­o­rate the neigh­bor­hood

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - Jac­ques Kelly jkelly@balt­sun.com

The new apart­ment house at 1700 Green­mount Ave. smells of fresh paint and ma­sonry dust.

The el­e­va­tors don’t work yet, but there are only eight units left to rent at City Arts 2, an un­usual build­ing that mar­ries two uses: Some 45 apart­ments will be leased to artists who meet cer­tain in­come re­quire­ments, and an­other15 will be for nonelderly dis­abled per­sons.

“It’s Bal­ti­more’s sec­ond apart­ment build­ing for artists,” said Charles B. Duff, pres­i­dent of Ju­bilee Bal­ti­more, a part­ner in the project and in City Arts 1, lo­cated just down the street.

“We’ve built a proper dance stu­dio here,” he said as he showed off a ground-floor cham­ber over­look­ing Green Mount Ceme­tery’s stone walls. “You can dance for hours and not ruin your joints.”

A sim­i­lar room is set aside for writ­ers, po­ets and fash­ion and graphic de­sign­ers. The coun­ters for a cof­fee bar were be­ing in­stalled this week and should be ready for open­ing day Dec. 1.

“A large per­cent­age of our artists are not vis­ual arts,” Duff said. “We have many move­ment and dig­i­tal artists mov­ing in.”

The four-story, $16 mil­lion apart­ment build­ing is the new­est com­po­nent in a strat­egy that be­gan 14 years ago, when Bal­ti­more was shaken by the ar­son-mur­der of the Daw­son fam­ily in the Oliver neigh­bor­hood in East Bal­ti­more.

Sean Closkey, pres­i­dent of the devel­op­ment sub­sidiary of Philadel­phia’s Rein­vest­ment Fund, said that shortly after the fire, a del­e­ga­tion of min­is­ters from Bal­ti­more­ans United In Lead­er­ship Devel­op­ment ap­proached the fund, which has projects in states across the coun­try.

“We took a long look at Bal­ti­more and at Oliver,” Closkey said. “We saw how we might help and iden­ti­fied two points — Penn­syl­va­nia Sta­tion and the Johns Hop­kins med­i­cal cam­pus.”

Closkey said the or­ga­ni­za­tion has in­vested about $85 mil­lion in Green­mount West and Oliver, plus “an­other $100 mil­lion to sup­port so­cial ser­vices, arts and ed­u­ca­tion.”

City Arts 2 is a part of the Rein­vest­ment Fund’s vi­sion to re­build East Bal­ti­more, in­clud­ing the ren­o­va­tion of dozens of once-aban­doned neigh­bor­hood build­ings.

Closkey said the fund is also plan­ning to build five new houses in Bar­clay in ad­di­tion to 23 other res­i­dences that have been re­fur­bished on the streets that ad­join City Arts 2.

“We had to do mul­ti­ple in­vest­ments at the same time,” he said. “You can’t just build a stand-alone big build­ing. You have to ren­o­vate the va­cant lit­tle houses that sur­round it. That is what helps a neigh­bor­hood.”

Closkey stresses that City Arts 2 is a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort; sev­eral non­prof­its, in­clud­ing Ju­bilee Bal­ti­more, are work­ing in con­cert to re­build the neigh­bor­hood. The ma­jor­ity part­ner is Homes for Amer­ica, a non­profit hous­ing agency based in An­napo­lis.

“I love the project, and the im­pact it’s go­ing to have on the Green­mount West neigh­bor­hood is pro­found,” said Polly Duke, vice pres­i­dent of Homes of Amer­ica.

“Not enough peo­ple know what is go­ing on here,” Duke said. “If any­body was skep­ti­cal about the suc­cess of the Arts and En­ter­tain­ment Dis­trict, that skep­ti­cism has run its course.”

Ar­chi­tects Hord Co­plan Macht worked to make City Arts 2 fit into Green­mount Av­enue. Sev­eral apart­ments have front doors fac­ing the busy street.

Other apart­ments, on the up­per floors, over­look Green Mount Ceme­tery’s Vic­to­rian mon­u­ments and vaults.

Malindi Lankatilleke, con­struc­tion man­ager for South­way Builders, said that as an arts build­ing, the apart­ments have spe­cific ameni­ties such as in­dus­trial sinks for painters who have to clean their brushes.

Be­cause the mix of ten­ants spans the def­i­ni­tion of arts, how­ever, some renters may not find that amenity par­tic­u­larly use­ful.

As she walked through a nearly com­plete, two-bed­room cor­ner apart­ment, Lankatilleke said the ren­ter of that par­tic­u­lar unit “will not be us­ing that sink.” Why not? “She’s an opera singer,” she said.

AL­GE­RINA PERNA/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

De­vel­oper Charles B. Duff, left, and Sean Closkey with Rein­vest­ment Fund ex­am­ine the dance stu­dio of the City Arts 2 build­ing, which is sched­uled to open soon.

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