Baltimore Sun

Blame state bureaucrat­s for loss of Sellers Mansion

- — Georgia Corso, Baltimore

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.

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