Blame state bureaucrats for loss of Sellers Mansion
When I read the recent article, “West Baltimore’s historic Sellers Mansion demolished after three-alarm fire” (Feb. 25) with the photo of the remnants of the mostly leveled brick structure, I had to pull up a 2019 virtual map of 801 North Arlington Ave. to the corner of Arlington and West Lanvale Street in Harlem Park. The historic building, built in 1868, overlooking Lafayette Square Park, was surrounded by chain link fencing, covered with invasive vines, its mullioned windows boarded, and the mansard roof in serious decay. But one could easily see the hidden former beauty of this gorgeous 18-room house and envision its restoration.
Sellers Mansion had been abandoned in the early 1990s. Then I read that the mansion had been purchased in 2019 by developer Ernst Valery who had plans to renovate it as senior apartments. Then I felt my blood pressure rise as I went on to find out that while Valery — a Baltimore Black business owner who specializes in minority neighborhoods, affordable housing and multifamily complexes — had received approval from the city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation and federal tax credits to move forward with the renovation, his project was blocked by the Maryland Historical Trust due to Valery’s application for the competitive commercial tax credit being “incomplete for that funding round.”
Well, I hope the Maryland Historical Trust, a state agency, is happy and feels like it did its job. Instead of an historical beauty being restored, we now have a big burnedout property that will undoubtedly cost the developer and the city of Baltimore a fair sum to clean up — not to mention a firefighter was injured in controlling the blaze.
This is infuriating to me as a city resident. It’s another case where the state of Maryland steps in to flex its power over the city, when the city and the feds have given the project a green light. The Maryland Historical Trust displays its ignorance of the risks and inherent dangers of having vintage buildings sit vacant in Baltimore while they sit back in Crownsville sipping their morning brew and discussing the minutia of applications.