Urban League selects architects for new office


The Baltimore Urban League took a big step toward moving its headquarters into the historic Orchard Street Church this month by selecting a joint venture of Kelly Clayton & Mojzisek and Morgan State University professor Anthony Johns to serve as the architects for the project.

More than 50 architectural and engineering teams originally expressed interest in working on the $6 million project, which involves restoring the 1882 church at 521 Orchard St. to its original appearance and transforming the interior to house both office space for the Urban League and a large African-American cultural art center and museum. A second phase involves construction of a four-story office building next to the church.

"Our goal is to restore it as a landmark structure," said Brian Kelly, principal-in-charge of the project for KCM. "It's suffered a lot of deterioration and very few interior features are intact. But there are enough clues to try to piece together what was there originally . . . It's going to be a painstaking process."

Designed in an Italian Renaissance Revival style, the church is the third one on the site and has been vacant for more than a decade. The city of Baltimore, which owns the property, selected the Baltimore Urban League to recycle it in 1989 after reviewing several competing bids. The mid-Atlantic office of Heery Program Management is serving as construction manager.

Founded in 1910 and currently located at Mondawmin Mall, the Baltimore Urban League is one of the city's oldest service and advocacy organizations. About 16,000 square feet of space on the first level of the church will be used to house the group's offices and programs, including teenage pregnancy programs, AIDS education, and employment programs. The arts center and museum will be located one level above the offices in the main sanctuary, whose vaulted ceiling, arched windows and ornamental millwork all will be restored.

Funding for the project is coming from a number of sources, including the city, the state and the Urban League. The organization's timetable calls for construction to begin by September and for the church restoration to be complete by November of 1992. The office building will be constructed when a tenant emerges.

Mr. Johns is the chairman of architecture at Morgan State. Past Kelly Clayton & Mojzisek projects include restorations of the Corpus Christi Church in Bolton Hill, the Academy of Music in Lynchburg, Va., and the Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville; and the conversion of the former St. Charles Seminary campus to the Charlestown Retirement Community.

Marco Merrick, a communications consultant for the Baltimore Urban League, said the designers were selected on the basis of their fees, initial design analysis, past experience and the "excellent representation of blacks" on the design team. According to program manager Pete Nettleton of Heery, more than two-thirds of the value of the design contract will be carried out by minority consultants and subconsultants.

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