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BDC hears 2 plans to renew historic E. Balto. building

A historic former school in East Baltimore that has been vacant for years could be transformed into college classrooms or offices under proposals heard by city officials Wednesday.

Two groups have submitted plans to the Baltimore Development Corp. to buy and renovate the four-story Gompers Building at 1701 E. North Ave.

The 1905 structure housed Eastern High School until 1950. Afterward it served as a vocational school and then as affordable apartments through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program. HUD foreclosed on the property and sold it to the city for $1 in 1997. It has been vacant since.

Under a $26 million proposal by the Maryland Economic Development Corp., Baltimore City Community College and Seawall Development, MEDCO would buy and renovate the building using bond financing and lease it to the two-year community college.

Under the second, $16 million, plan, the Gompers Building would be transformed into offices for Peace of Mind, a nonprofit that serves at-risk youth, ex-offenders and the homeless; it would also include space for other nonprofits or businesses as well as restaurants.

Economic development officials said they hoped a rebirth for the 125,000-square-foot building would spark revitalization in the area.

"This is one of the most prominent buildings in East Baltimore," M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's quasi-public economic development arm, said Wednesday at a meeting of the BDC's project review committee.

Though the Gompers Building is not part of the $1.8 billion redevelopment of the Middle East neighborhood, the renovation and reuse of the structure "would send a tremendous message about the revitalization of East Baltimore," Brodie said.

The project review committee is expected to present a recommendation to the BDC's board on Thursday.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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