Remember these construction projects that were shovel-ready last year?

Will 2022 see this long-empty apartment building at 1700 Eutaw Place come back to life?

Madison Park North is still on track, but the track has met obstacles along the way, said David Bramble, its lead developer. Two big issues were air rights held by the city and a waiver from Amtrak related to ventilation from a train tunnel. One has been settled and the Amtrak issue seems about to wrap up, he said. “Once Amtrak is resolved (which is hopefully imminent) … we will be off to the races.”

When The Bulletin last wrote about plans for a major housing and supermarket-centered retail project on eight weedy acres along North Avenue at the Reservoir Hill – Bolton Hill border, things were looking good. There was talk of “machines on the site” – beginning construction in the last quarter of 2021 and housing on the market in 2022.

The city Board of Estimates approved the air rights sale for a nominal $40,000 around Thanksgiving. City-imposed height restrictions from half a century ago were to preclude high-rise development at the site, which became low-income housing that was torn down in 2017.

MCB Real Estate, Bramble’s firm, hopes now to begin construction in the spring on the first phase, 120 market-rate townhouses. Later phases call for high-rise apartments and retail, including a grocery. Unrelated, this month MCB acquired control of The Rotunda shopping center and apartments in Hampden in a $267 million deal.

Strawbridge Church at Park and Wilson, built in 1881 and vacant since 2009, is moving forward toward its new life as 11 luxury rental apartments. Construction was to have begun in the spring of 2020, just as the COVID pandemic settled in. Now it is underway.

“Our excavation crew just broke open a giant hole in the exterior wall. This is the future entryway for the basement apartments. A large stairway and an enclosed addition will connect the sanctuary with the basement. We were able to preserve the original stone. Now we will more easily move equipment and materials throughout the building. The large window openings facing the courtyard are now complete as well,” said Daniel Kamenetz, who owns the building.

“The carriage house flooring has been temporarily removed so that we can excavate the dirt below. First we must finish erecting structural support for the carriage house wall on Jenkins Alley. This is careful work because that wall is very compromised.

“Plumbing rough-in is ready. Our contract with the plumbing company includes, among other things, 10 full baths, 2 half baths, 10 kitchen sinks, 10 ice maker boxes, sump pumps, hose bibs, emax heaters, and so on. We’ve also signed our contract with the utility construction company. They will soon begin work on a 4” fire and 1.5” domestic connection from the water main in the 200 block of Wilson Street. Notice will be posted on Wilson Street when the utility work is scheduled to begin,” he said.

No completion date is public.

Unity Hall is being redeveloped to become a hub for community non-profit organizations, programs and services. A ribbon-cutting was held in September.

 “We are making great progress. Core construction is expected to be completed by April-May of this year,” in spite of supply chain issues and COVID, said Jake Stern of DC-based Somerset Development, one of the partners renovating what was once a clothing union headquarters at Eutaw Place near McMechen Street.

They will start a search for a center director shortly. “Once we get the certificate of occupancy for the building, we will build out the tenant spaces per the specifications of the individual tenants,” Stern said. Tenants so far include No Boundaries Coalition, The Community Builders, Building Our Nations Daughters (BOND), Single Carrot Theatre, and Baltimore Music Box.

“We are also in conversations with additional partners to deliver a workforce development program at Unity Hall and are searching for a community catering company that can locate and manage the Unity Hall event space. We have six artist studios and co-working spaces still available for rent,” Stern said. 

1700 Eutaw Place was once known as Kensett House Apartments, but it has been a vacant, trash-collecting eyesore for years.

Before the pandemic, a lawyer and architect representing New York investors came to BHCA seeking support for zoning changes that were necessary, they said, to make restoration of the building for market-rate rentals viable. BHCA and the Madison Park Improvement Association partnered to negotiate details of a memorandum of understanding tied to the use and occupancy permit in exchange for support of the changes. Now what?

In October, architect Lance Decker told BHCA in an email exchange that preliminary work was getting started. “It is a big building with lots of decrepit materials. The ‘gutting’ of the building has happened in 5 or 6 stages … it is now pretty empty. I could imagine many full-sized dumpsters worth of old, bad stuff coming out.

I would hope that a lot of that material can come out through the rear, including the old loading area on the Northwest side of the building,” he added. Not much has happened since that notice, with city permit issues probably a cause for delay. Decker did not respond to outreach from the Bulletin.

Bill Hamilton