Church complex avoids demolition

Written by on May 22, 2013 in Featured, Neighborhood News - No comments

Residents from Butchers Hill and Fells Prospect spoke against demolishing parts of the Saint Michael Church complex, but said that development of the property could be positive for the area. - Photo by Erik Zygmont

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Last week, the Baltimore CIty Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation rejected a proposal to demolish parts of the Saint Michael Church complex, located at the northeast corner of E. Lombard and S. Wolfe streets.

Developer Mark B. Manzo of Canton presented plans to demolish the rectory and school buildings of the complex. The rectory is on S. Wolfe St., just north of the church itself, and the school is just east of the church, fronting S. Chapel St.

Manzo could not be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, May 14, the CHAP panel voted unanimously against the demolition, which would have occurred in the Washington Hill neighborhood. Washington Hill’s community association is currently inactive, but residents from the neighboring Butchers Hill Association and Fells Prospect Community Association responded to the proposal.

Virgil Bartram, Chair of the Land Use Committee of the Butchers Hill Association, noted that the Butchers Hill Association had taken no vote and no position on the demolition.

However, the association’s Land Use Committee was against it.

“You don’t really consider demolition anymore,” Bartram said. “To me, it’s kind of out of the question, personally.”

He added that the developer is still working on finding a suitable project for the buildings, “and we’re trying to work with him, but not for demolition.”

“There’s hope we can find some good use for the existing buildings,” said Bartram. “You have all these churches around the city with new uses. It could be a real addition to the city.”

Victor Corbin, president of the Fells Prospect Community Association, wrote to CHAP that “after review of the incomplete plans and a walk of the complex after meeting, it is our position that there be no demolition of any historic structures.”

With regard to “incomplete plans,” Corbin elaborated that “there was no clear vision for the church and there was no attempt to save historic structures.”

Corbin also wrote that Fells Prospect is interested in continuing to work with Manzo.

“Overall we feel this project could have a positive effect on the greater Fell’s Point community, particularly Upper Fell’s Point,” he wrote.

The church complex is currently owned by the Redemptorists, a congregation of the Catholic Church with a mission of preaching to the poor. The complex is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The steeple to the main church building is nearly 200 feet high.

by Erik Zygmont

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