A builder's quest for a downtown robotic garage finally received approval yesterday from the city's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel, some of whose members continued to question the aesthetics. The garage, which will have apartments on the outside, was first announced in 2004, but encountered opposition.
Architect Peter Fillat displayed models and sketches of a slightly trimmed-down project to be constructed in the first block of West Saratoga St., adjacent to the 1791 Old St. Paul's Episcopal Church rectory. Fillat told the panel he enjoyed "an opportunity to do a cutting-edge building." Edward D. Scott, owner of the nearby Professional Building, characterized Fillat's design as "looking like a pillbox" with "no character." Several panel members recorded comments critical of the design.
After the meeting, developer David H. Hillman said he had received verbal approval for his garage from the administration of former mayor and now Gov. Martin O'Malley. "The garage was part of a deal I made when I said I would buy and renovate the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. Building." He said that building, on nearby Lexington Street and converted into apartments, needs parking for tenants.
The robotic garage is to be constructed without ramps. Vehicles would be mechanically carried to and retrieved from storage sites within the structure by a handful of employees. While most of the parking spaces would be reserved for Hillman's tenants, a small number would be available to downtown parkers.