Published  May 2, 2017
May 2, 2017

Baltimore Business Journal

By: Jonathan Munshaw

Developers received approval — again — on a plan to redevelop the old Hendler Creamery building into apartments.

Hanover-based Commercial Group returned to the city's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation for the third time in four years to show off their plans to convert two blocks in Jonestown into a 296-unit apartment building.

Representatives from the Commercial Group, along with the Design Collective, the architect on the project, showed off new designs at the meeting on April 11 that include 20,000 square feet of street-level retail as well as a two-floor parking garage. Plans also call for replacing the building's gable roof with a new glass terrace that would hold 12 apartment units.

The $45 million plan calls for consolidating 1100 E. Baltimore St., 1110 E. Baltimore St., 1107 E. Fayette St., and a portion of East Fairmount Street between East and Aisquith streets. It will eventually make up two full blocks and will close off a one-block stretch of East Fairmount Street. Developers will renovate the Hendler Creamery building, which has sat empty since the 1980s, and will demolish most of the structures around it.

CHAP members signed off on the project, but recommended they take additional steps to preserve street-level windows on the outside of the creamery.

While developers did not say when they hope to start construction on the project, Kevin Johnson, the CEO of Commercial Group, said during the CHAP meeting the company is working quickly to obtain the proper demolition permits before moving forward. Johnson could not be reached for further comment.

Johnson and his group last went in front of CHAP in 2015 to receive approval. Johnson did not offer a clear reason at the meeting as to why the project didn't move forward after that, only saying that Commercial Group sold off a majority stake of the project to an "outside developer" that did not care about the community's interests, and Commercial Group eventually bought its share back.

The project was also signed off on by CHAP in 2013.

The Commercial Group purchased the Hendler building in 2012 for almost $1.1 million. The building was constructed in 1892 and helped power the city's then-new cable car transit system. It was converted to a theater for live performances and movies in 1903. In 1912, the Hendler Ice Cream Co. converted it to the country's first fully automated ice cream factory, according to the Maryland Historical Trust. Hendler went out of business in the 1970s.

Johnson said during the meeting he was anxious to get the project off the ground to help contribute to the revitalization of Jonestown.

The Hendler Creamery building sits just across the street from the recently opened UA House community center on the Fayette Street side, and is near the site of the new Baltimore Ronald McDonald House, which is scheduled to break ground on Baltimore Street Tuesday.

"It’s life-changing for this entire area, transforming for this entire neighborhood," Johnson said at the meeting. "I’m moved emotionally by [CHAP's] support and hope this continues to transform Jonestown."


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