Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Upper Floors Available

As Baltimore continues to redevelop its Downtown and Harbor the Buildings become mixed use. Some say mixed use is a new trend but I respectfully disagree, mixed use development has been the foundation of the American City since its inception. However, as new mixed use projects come down the pipeline, it's interesting to see that all floors are accounted for. This was the same in neighborhoods but today the upper floors in older retail neighborhood portions remain empty.
A quick definition or of density means growing up not out. That's why the suburbs are traditionally less dense than Cities. When Baltimore's Population peaked at 987,000 in the 1950s every nook and cranny of every building was filled and put to good use. Today, store fronts that have been vacant since the mass exodus to the suburbs are being back filled with ground floor retail. When ground floor retail returns there is often one or two floors in the building that are left vacant. In order for Baltimore to regain its population and vitality these upper floors must be filled. Here are some examples of such.Penn Station, Baltimore's spectacular Rail Travel Welcome Center has at least two vacant upper floors. Luckily, a small Boutique Style Hotel is planned to fill these long vacant floors. Talk about convenient.Hampden, this one's right on the Avenue! Want the hottest address in Hampden? Well whoever owns this building whose ground floor contains several trendy Boutiques can cash in by replacing the second floor windows with glass instead of bricks and turning them into apartments.Forest Park, although the retail that's here could stand to be more upscale, there are plenty of buildings like this along Liberty Heights Avenue with vacant second and or third floors. Some have a larger foot print like this while others are that of a Row House. Retail woes aside, the larger buildings' upper floors would be good for either more Retail or Offices while the Row Houses would be better suited for residences.Highlandtown, Eastern Avenue is the unofficial Main Street of Southeast Baltimore. Why not in the middle of it all? Liberty Income Tax made its sign friendly to Upper Floor Tenants while Security Loan & Jewelry has not. Eastern in Highlandtown has a lot of buildings like Security Loan & Jewelry and not enough like Liberty Income Tax. Hutzler's the Grand Dame Department Store! Other Downtown Department Stores have experienced rebirths as Apartments with fround floor retail and unerground parking. This building is large enough for an enclosed Big Box Mall and what I envision for all six or seven floors. Think Towson Circle which also happened to a Hutzlers. This one's too important to let go of.Coldstream Homestead Montebello, although I'd like to see most of this neighborhood redeveloped, here's an example of ground floor retail along Harford Road with a vacant second floor.Leington St., this picture shows an open business on the ground floor. Lexington St. struggles with keeping even the ground floors of its buildings occupied. However, this posts is about upper floors and most of its upper floors are good for Apartments and Offices.Jonestown, I'm having a hard time calling it Historic Jonestown because so much of it is brand new construction. Attman's Deli, a long time staple of East Lombard St. has had a vacant seond floor for quite some time. For Attman's, this will soon be a moot point because it's building a brand new store on the vacant lot next door. The existing building will be renovated and leased out, all floors! There are more buildings like this along Baltimore St.Pak Real Estate, these clusters of buildings' upper floors won't be hard to fill because their downstairs Neighbor is a Real Estate Office! This located in Station North at North Avenue and Maryland Avenue.Pigtown, along Washington Boulevard new businesses have been popping up over the past few years. This goes along with all the investment in this neighborhood including Camden Crossing. Pigtown is still one of those neighborhoods where the Corner Store reigns king. One aspect of the Corner Store is the Shopkeep living above it, this isn't the case in Pigtown.Parkway Theatre, located in the heart of Station North (Charles St. and North Avenue) this building's lone tenant is a lone New York Fried Chicken. The Station North Master Plan shows a robust rehab of the Parkway Theatre that doesn't include New York Fried Chicken. It does however, show all floors occupied.Reoccupying upper floors of existing buildings is an inexpensive way for Baltimore to regain population and ensure the first floor retail in those buildings maintain a healthy customer base. It's also a good way to keep the wheels in motion during the recession while large projects are on the back burner.


Anonymous said...

This post is a must-read for developers, politicians etc.

Great job Spence.

Anonymous said...

There is not a Planned Parenthood clinic in the first floor of Hutzlers. Planned Parenthood owns their own building at Mulberry and Howard.

Spence Lean said...

Whoops you're right thanks for the heads up. I will make the needed corrections.

Gabe said...

I imagine a problem for many building owners with vacant upper floors is both a lack of funds for refurbishing those floors and/or code & zoning issues.

Cities could help solve these issues by carefully relaxing zoning/code and making redevelopment funds available.

Here's a citypaper article about how Baltimore currently gives a hard time to artists that 'squat' (see: live in/put to use/revitalize) empty upper floors.

I'm not sure that the best solution is--but some flexibility from govt. would probably help.