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Baltimore Police considering former Baltimore Sun building for the new Central District location

The Baltimore Sun is leaving its Calvert Street home of 68 years for Port Covington. A look back and forward. (Ulysses Muñoz, Jerry Jackson, Kevin Richardson, Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun video)

The Baltimore Police Department’s Central District, pushed out of its downtown offices last year after a pipe burst, is considering a move up the street to the hulking former home of The Baltimore Sun on the edge of Mount Vernon that has been vacant for nearly a year.

The Sun’s former newsroom and offices at 501 N. Calvert St. is one of several locations under consideration, police spokesman Matt Jablow said.

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He did not have a time frame for when the district would relocate, or provide additional locations the department was considering.

The Central District was relocated from 500 E. Baltimore St. in December. It was closed “to ensure there were no environmental hazards,” a police spokesman said at the time. Police said a sewage pipe burst at the building, causing an officer to fall ill and be taken to a hospital, police said.

The district has since been operating out of police headquarters at 601 E. Fayette St.

Jablow referred additional questions to the city’s Department of General Services. DGS officials did not respond to requests for comment.

The Calvert Street property had been the headquarters for The Sun since 1950. In 2014, Chicago-based Tribune Media spun off The Sun and its other newspapers but kept their real estate.

Tribune Media sold the Sun building and a neighboring parking garage to Atapco Properties in 2017. Atapco, a Baltimore-based real estate investment and management firm, paid $10 million for the building and $5 million for the garage.

The Sun news and business operations relocated to the company’s printing plant in Port Covington last summer.

Atapco officials had said they were considering a mixed-use development that could include a hotel, offices, a restaurant, a grocery store and performance space. The management firm said recently that it is still developing plans for the property.

“We are talking to a number of potential users for the building,” Kevin McAndrews, president of Atapco, said in an email this month. He declined to provide further information.

“We do not comment on any specific potential users that might be interested or respond to rumors,” he said.

Sgt. Mike Mancuso, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said the Central District and other station houses have long been in need of upgrades.

“The Central District station house should have been condemned years ago! It’s filled with mold and the pipes leaked human waste,” he said in a text message. “It is currently being worked on but may ultimately be past repair.”

Mancuso said he previously met with former Mayor Catherine Pugh to discuss the need for improvements at all the police district buildings and other facilities.

“She described several of our district buildings as disgusting. I agreed! I urged her to move to repair them quickly for officer safety and to help with the recruitment and retention issue,” he said.

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Mancuso said he has not discussed plans with Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, but he wants upgrades “for the health and safety of all that use these police facilities.”

Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership, said the Calvert Street building presents many benefits.

“Whatever the future use may be, the site is in a very desirable location with high visibility from the [Jones Falls Expressway] and easy walkability to the Mount Vernon and Charles Center neighborhoods,” he said.

If the police station did relocate to the Calvert Street site, it wouldn’t be the first time a newsroom property became a station house.

Long after The Philadelphia Inquirer moved from its longtime newsroom on Broad Street, work began this year to renovate the building to become the Philadelphia Police Department headquarters. The newspaper reported that the city would lease the property and spend $300 million on renovations, including new holding cells in the basement, that are expected to be done in 2020.

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