They're trading guns for money: The grande dame of Baltimore police stations is destined to become a bank.
The Northern District is one of the country's oldest operating police stations, and its fate has been closely watched in and beyond Hampden, where the red Victorian castlelike building has stood at 34th and Keswick streets since 1899.
After weighing three proposals for the building's reuse, city officials announced yesterday that Heritage Savings Bank would be the anchor tenant in the $3.5 million redevelopment for commercial use. The proposal by partners Stanley Keyser and Diane Blair, "Heritage Savings Centre," also includes restaurant and office space.
Residents approved the proposal at a meeting in June, when two residential projects also were discussed. A community task force recommended the bank proposal to Baltimore Development Corp., which evaluated the bids and recommended the bank to Mayor Martin O'Malley this week.
The mayor has agreed to move the project along; police will occupy the building until a station opens on West Cold Spring Lane, city officials said.
BDC analyst Robert Aydukovic said that the bank proposal was not the most financially attractive choice for the city in terms of taxes, but that "it emerged clearly as the winner."
M. J. "Jay" Brodie, BDC president, said the community preferred not to have apartment dwellers in the historical site, which he described as a "funky, cool space," with soaring ceilings, exposed brick, stables and a few small dungeons.
Dennis Byrne, who led a community building reuse committee for two years, applauded the choice yesterday.
"Of the three proposals presented, it was the only one that had financing. He [Keyser] brought his banker with him. The other thing we liked was that it will be an anchor for this corner of the world."
Keyser said yesterday that historic preservation is his strong point and that he is preserving and renovating 1880s townhomes in the 1200 block of N. Charles St. in partnership with the University of Baltimore. Blair, his partner, is developing Spicer's Run, a successful townhouse site on North Avenue.
"We like Cinderella stories - dress them up and send them to the ball," Keyser said.