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MICA station will get a makeover


The renovation of Baltimore's Mount Royal train station gained national attention in the mid-1960s as one of the first cases in which a building no longer useful in its original role was successfully adapted for a different use.

For nearly 40 years, the 1896 landmark has served the Maryland Institute College of Art well as an extension of its midtown campus, with artists' studios, an auditorium, library and gallery space within the restored train station shell.

Now the Maryland Institute is renovating it again to meet the changing needs of its student body and to complement other facilities on its growing campus.

The institute last month began a two-year, $6.3 million conversion of the train station from a multifaceted arts facility to a studio center exclusively for the creation of sculpture and other three-dimensional art, from fiber to performance and installation art.

When construction is completed in 2006, the building will be the setting for all undergraduate courses in sculpture, with the exception of ceramics, and it will continue to house the college's Rinehart School of Sculpture, a graduate-level program.

It will also be an even stronger visual anchor for the Mount Royal cultural district, because its granite exterior will be cleaned for the first time in years and illuminated at night. Its main entrance will be shifted from the east side to the north end, where a landscaped plaza will be created.

"It's a great building, but it looks a little down and dirty at the moment," said college President Fred Lazarus. "When we clean up the stone and light the building, it will be the kind of beacon for the neighborhood and the campus that we want it to be."

The stone "will get washed from the tower down and all around," said Glenn McCain, director of college construction services. "It'll look spectacular."

During the first year of construction, work will include partial demolition of the interior to remove the old auditorium and other spaces, reconfiguration of the interior to add new sculpture studios and classrooms, and upgrading of mechanical systems. In the second year, work will include cleaning the stone, relocating the entrance and repairing the train shed.

Grieves, Worrall, Wright & O'Hatnick is the architect. Higgins-Lazarus is the landscape architect. Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. is the construction manager.

Designed by Baldwin and Pennington with a tall clock tower and large granite walls, Mount Royal Station was built by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in a dell near the intersection of Mount Royal Avenue and Cathedral Street. Although it is no longer used as a passenger station, freight trains still pass beneath the train shed.

Much of the building has been closed for the summer so interior demolition can proceed. The building will not be open for the city's annual Artscape festival this year, but a stage for live performances will be set up nearby as usual.

The latest transformation is the culmination of a series of changes that have taken place over several years. The library that was in the train station moved to the college's Bunting Center. The college opened a new auditorium in the Brown Center and a new dining area in the Fox Building. The Decker Gallery is being relocated to the Fox Building as well.

The changes are consistent with recommendations in the master plan for the MICA campus developed by Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore. GWWO was hired because college leaders liked the job it did as restoration architect for the main administration building at 1300 Mount Royal Ave., according to Michael Molla, vice president of operations at MICA.

As part of the renovation, many windows that were covered over in the 1960s will be reopened so more of the interior will be visible to passers-by. The college is also creating a permanent exhibit on the building and its renovation, which has been given "official project" designation by the Save America's Treasures program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Sculpture dedication

Baltimore's newest outdoor sculpture, a 50-foot-tall work by Rodney Carroll titled The Firebird, will be dedicated at 10 a.m. today in the plaza near the Symphony Center office buildings, in the 1000 block of Park Avenue between Howard and Cathedral streets, across from the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

The $275,000 sculpture was commissioned by David S. Brown Enterprises, one of the developers of the Symphony Center office and apartment complex, and the Maryland Transit Administration.

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