Two Baltimore-area firms are planning to restore the historic Central Savings Bank in downtown, adding more shops and apartments to a once vibrant business district trying to reinvent itself as a hotbed of residential activity.
Poverni Sheikh Group and Meisel Capital Partners are planning 26, mostly one bedroom apartments, as well as 12,000 square feet of retail in the 1 East Lexington Street property, and two adjacent parcels on Lexington and N. Charles streets.
The joint venture, Central Savings Bank Shops & Flats, purchased the properties, which were built around 1900 and are connected in the interiors, as a package last month for $1.2 million, said Poverni Sheikh Group Principal Ibrahim Sheikh.
The firms plan to invest more than $5 million in the conversion, updating the systems, and preserving the exteriors, central atrium, marble-floored lobby, and safes located in the former offices. Financing will include federal historic tax credits, he said.
"We're not exactly sure what to do with [the safes], but we know we've got to keep them just because they're so cool," said Sheikh, whose firm is also turning the former Raffel building in South Baltimore and the former Martin Seafood building in Fells Point into apartments.
Sheikh said the firms were drawn to the area by other new investments, pointing to the Hotel Monaco and apartments at 301 N. Charles Street. The Romanesque Revival Central Savings Bank, built in 1891, lies about a block north of the former Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, where work on a new apartment towers and shopping is underway.
"We're kind of betting that that will become a centerpoint for downtown," he said.
The properties were previously owned by the Baltimore and Annapolis Railroad Company, whose president, Ken Pippin, is also a major investor in units in Mount Vernon's Belvedere Hotel, according to state land records.
The properties' sole tenant, a pawn shop, will leave at the end of the month, Shiekh said. Construction is expected to begin the summer of 2015 and finish in 2016.