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Business & Developmentby Ed Gunts9:04 amNov 10, 20150

MICA planning $8.1 million expansion in Bolton Hill

BREW EXCLUSIVE: Arts college envisions a five-story building on Dolphin Street to house programs in product design, gaming and other subjects

Above: A student passes by the three-story building on Dolphin Street that MICA wants to tear down.

UPDATE: Demolition Can Proceed

The Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation this afternoon paved the way for MICA’s Dolphin Building to be demolished by voting that the structure is no longer a “contributing building” to the Bolton Hill Historic District.

CHAP’s staff had recommended that the panel vote that the three-story building at 100-116 Dolphin Street still contributes to the historic district. After listening to testimony from the college and its architect, the panel voted 4 to 3 against the staff recommendation, with one member abstaining.

The vote means that CHAP will not object to the housing department issuing a demolition permit for the Dolphin Street building, but it will review the proposed five-story replacement building, whose design has not yet been released by the college.

Seeking to accommodate a growing student body and new programs, the Maryland Institute College of Art is planning to construct an $8.1 million classroom building in place of a smaller property it owns at 100-116 Dolphin Street, part of the Bolton Hill National Register Historic District.

College representatives and architects are scheduled to meet later today with the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) to request approval to raze the existing structure, a former auto repair shop known as the Dolphin Radiator and Fender Works, to make way for the proposed replacement.

If approved, the proposed building would be the first new construction project on MICA’s Bolton Hill campus since Samuel Hoi replaced longtime college president Fred Lazarus IV on July 1, 2014.

It also would be one of the first times in many years that MICA has opted to tear down a campus building rather than recycle it.

Over the years, the college has developed a reputation as a pioneer in finding new uses for old buildings, including the Mount Royal train station, the former Cannon Shoe factory and the old Women’s Hospital on Lafayette Street. The last building it tore down was a Ditch, Bowers & Taylor auto parts store on North Avenue to make way for the Gateway student housing complex.

Preliminary plans by GWWO Inc./Architects call for a five-story, 25,000-square-foot structure in the 100 block of Dolphin Street that will house programs in product design, gaming, architectural design, fabric design and other subjects.

It would replace a three-story, 15,000 square foot building that currently contains the college’s printmaking department, which would move to 1515 Mount Royal Avenue.

Recycling Isn’t Feasible, MICA Says

Michael Molla, the college’s vice president for strategic initiatives, said MICA originally explored the idea of expanding the existing Dolphin Street building by adding two floors. But he said it turned out to be so costly and complicated that it didn’t make economic sense.

Molla said the soil conditions were poor for beefing up the existing building’s structural system to support two more floors, the mechanical systems would have to be upgraded, windows would need to be replaced, accessibility was limited for people in wheelchairs, the construction site was tight because of the nearby CSX and light-rail lines, and other factors.

A light-rail train passes by the Dolphin Street property this morning (Photo by Ed Gunts)

A light-rail train passes by the Dolphin Street property this morning. (Photo by Ed Gunts)

In the end, the college concluded that while it could expand the existing building, it would not make economic sense to spend the money it would require. In this case, Molla said, it makes more sense to construct a somewhat larger structure on the footprint of the existing building and design it specifically for the teaching programs it will house.

He added that no buildings along the 1200 block of Mount Royal Avenue will be involved in the project, even though MICA owns every building on the block except the Mount Royal Tavern.

“We’re looking to demolish” the Dolphin Street building, Molla said. “It was never meant to be a 100-year building, and it’s past that now.”

MICA needs to go to CHAP because the Dolphin Street building is part of the Bolton Hill Historic District, and any changes to buildings in the district must be approved by the panel.

CHAP is not focusing on the new building at this point, and nothing more than a conceptual design has been developed. Today’s meeting is being held solely to see if the commission will approve the college’s request to tear down the Dolphin building.

Demolition Timetable

According to a historic structures report prepared by GWWO, the building was constructed around 1914 as an auto repair shop. The college acquired it in the early 1960s and converted it to teaching space. It has always been a relatively non-descript, utilitarian structure, a background building compared to standouts such as the train station, the 1907 Main Building and the Brown Center.

Other than Dolphin Radiator owners Oliver Brown Rutherford and his son, Oliver Bartlett Rutherford, the building is not known to be associated with any famous or even semi-famous people – unless they had their cars repaired there. The GWWO report concludes that “it is not a contributing structure to the Bolton Hill historic district.”

Molla said the Mount Royal Improvement Association’s architectural review committee has been briefed on the project and supports the demolition plan. He said Southway Builders has been selected to be the construction manager for the replacement structure and construction funds would come from a mix of public and private sources.

If CHAP approves the demolition request, Molla said, the college would tear the building down next June and start construction immediately afterwards. Under that schedule, he said, the new building could open by August 2017.

With the new building, Molla said, MICA will be able to increase its population by 80 to 100 students. The college’s current full-time enrollment is 2,181.

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