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Bits of Hecht's history for sale; Auction: Seven floors of materials from the company's former flagship department store downtown will go to the highest bidders today.


PART OF Baltimore's retail history will go on the block today, when contractors auction the contents of the Hecht Co.'s former flagship department store at Howard and Lexington streets.

Seven floors of building materials -- from light fixtures, ceilings tiles and wooden doors to spiral stairs, elevators and escalators -- will be sold on the premises by Express Auction Marketing Specialists, headed by Larry Makowski. Everything removable from the building will be sold beginning at 10 a.m., the auctioneers say.

The sale is being held as part of the planned conversion of the building to a $15 million, 173-unit apartment complex by Southern Management Corp. of Northern Virginia.

Willes Construction Co. of Woodlawn has begun clearing out the building so construction of the apartments can begin. The auction will leave less for the construction crews to carry out and will allow the salvageable materials to be used elsewhere, explained auctioneer Michael Catrino.

It's a form of recycling, he said, adding, "Why throw away good ceiling tiles or light fixtures when they can be reused?"

Catrino said that the money raised will go to the contractor to help cover interior demolition costs.

Although the shell of the Hecht Co. building dates from 1924, much of the interior has been renovated. It was constructed by the Bernheimer-Leader Store and sold in 1927 to May Co., a retailer based in the Midwest. May expanded the building in 1941 and 1948 and remodeled much of the interior.

In 1958, May merged with Hecht Co. More renovations were completed the next two years, and a garage was added in 1965. In 1985, the top three floors were converted to office space. Several years later, Hecht's closed the store.

The retail fixtures were removed before the building was sold to Southern, but the interior still contains such items as carpeting, mirrors, sinks, fountains, and shelving and building materials such as copper and aluminum. Southern applied for a building permit this week and intends to complete construction in time to open the apartments by late next year.

According to plans by Collins and Kronstadt of Silver Spring, the exterior will look as it does now, while the interior will be altered to create a large atrium to allow light and air into the building. Some of the apartments will face the street, and others will face the atrium -- a plan similar to the layout of the Henderson's Wharf condominiums in Fells Point. There will be studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as 160 parking spaces. Rents will range from $650 to $1,250 per month.

Southern recently opened the 144-unit Gallery Tower apartment building at 111 E. Centre St. after extensive renovations. Company chairman David Hillman said all but about 10 of the apartments have been leased in three months -- the quickest the company has gotten clients to sign leases in any of its projects.

Though it's too soon to know whether the conversion of the Hecht Co. building will result in leases being snapped up as quickly, the response to the Gallery Tower shows how strong the rental market is in downtown Baltimore. "I'm a pessimist by nature," Hillman said. "But I'm less pessimistic now."

Gilbane chosen to manage War Memorial construction

The U.S. General Services Administration has selected the Gilbane Building Co.'s Mid-Atlantic Region office in Laurel to manage construction of the $100 million National World War II Memorial planned for the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The first national monument dedicated to those who served during World War II, the memorial will be at the east end of the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. A national fund-raising campaign has begun, and the American Battle Monuments Commission hopes to break ground by Veterans Day next year.

Pub Date: 8/19/99

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