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An 1866 malt house is being refitted for luxury lofts


Before it was called Central Avenue, the boulevard that separates Baltimore's Little Italy and Fells Point neighborhoods was known as Canal Street, a reference to the channel of water that once ran down the middle of the street (and still flows beneath its surface).

That history is reflected in the name of Baltimore's newest upscale condominium development, the $20 million Canal Street Malt House at 1220 Bank St. and Central Avenue.

Thirty-eight luxury residences are being created inside the former malt warehouse, constructed by local brewer Solomon Strauss in 1866, and a five-story addition that's rising next to it.

They were designed, builders say, to provide an alternative to newly constructed condominiums that feature water views but don't have much architectural character on the interior.

Many of today's buyers "want something more than just a view," said Brent Reynolds, a vice president of Union Box Co., the developer. "They want something unique to live in, something they can be proud of when they're inside.

"These will be true New York-style lofts," Reynolds said, "with big, open spaces like you'd find in SoHo and New York's meatpacking district, large windows and mezzanines."

Several blocks from Baltimore's harborfront, the lofts range in size from 1,400 to 3,400 square feet and have gourmet kitchens and spacious bathrooms. In many, the ceilings are 18 to 20 feet high. There is on-site parking and a landscaped entrance court but no other common areas.

Prices range from $489,000 to $1.1 million. Thirteen are reserved.

"We'd had a lot of interest from people in Washington, D.C., and the Bethesda area," as well as metropolitan Baltimore, Reynolds said. "For some, it will be their second home."

One buyer is former Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, who chose a top-level loft in the 1866 building.

Palmer said he has lived in both Baltimore County and Baltimore City and was drawn to the Malt House by the project itself, the flurry of redevelopment activity east of the Inner Harbor and the easy access to other parts of the region, including Oriole Park, the airport and Interstate 83.

After living on the south side of the Inner Harbor, Palmer said, he likes the idea of being close to Da Mimmo restaurant in Little Italy, Whole Foods Market, the new Gaines McHale antiques emporium on Caroline Street, a cinema complex planned for Harbor East and other attractions. "There's so much happening on the east side of Baltimore City."

Founded in 1996 by developer Larry Silverstein, Union Box is a Fells Point-based design and development firm that has completed several large projects east of the Inner Harbor, including Lancaster Square, Lancaster Place, the renovation of the Red Star restaurant on South Wolfe Street and the Trahan, Burden and Charles headquarters at 900 S. Wolfe St. This is Silverstein's first project on Central Avenue, and he is planning another across the street.

Parameter Inc., headed by Christopher Pfaeffle, was the project architect for Canal Street Malt House. Plano Caudon is the general contractor. The first phase, 13 lofts in the original building, will be ready for occupancy by the end of October. The second phase, 25 lofts in the addition, will be ready by the end of March.

Museum expansion

The Baltimore Museum of Art's expansion plans will be discussed at a free forum at noon Wednesday at the Johns Hopkins University's Downtown Center, Charles and Fayette streets.

Museum director Doreen Bolger and architect Sandra Vicchio of Ayers Saint Gross will lead the discussion, part of a series sponsored by the Baltimore Architecture Foundation.

Scenic byway

The Catoctin Mountain Highway in Western Maryland has been designated a National Scenic Byway by the Federal Highway Administration, which administers the program.

The highway is part of the "Journey Through Hallowed Ground," a 175-mile historic corridor from Gettysburg, Pa., to Monticello, Va. The federal designation is expected to boost heritage tourism initiatives in Western Maryland.

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