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The Dripby Ed Gunts7:30 pmOct 11, 20170

Eddie’s is spared from the wrecking ball for now

CHAP votes against removing historic status of building that houses Mount Vernon’s only grocery store

Above: In addition to Eddie’s, CHAP voted to keep its three-story neighbor, the former Eager Street restaurant, on the historic buildings list. (James Russiello)

Eddie’s of Mount Vernon is not as grand as the Belvedere Hotel or as stately as the Maryland Club or as presidential as the Washington Monument.

But Baltimore’s preservation commission concluded yesterday that it’s still a “contributing building” to Baltimore’s Mount Vernon historic district and shouldn’t be removed from the city’s list of buildings protected by local landmark status.

The Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) voted 5 to 3 yesterday to spare Eddie’s and the former Eager House restaurant – at least for now – by rejecting an application to essentially “delist” them from a 2005 roster of buildings deemed to have architectural significance.

The vote was a setback for developer Dennis Richter, who wants to tear down the grocery store and other buildings on the unit block of West Eager Street to make way for a mixed-use development containing stores at street level and residences above.

Richter told commission members that the existing grocery store “is relatively small and cannot compete with other stores” coming into the area. He described the former Eager House property as “subpar” and “utilitarian in nature.”

These sorts of buildings, he said, “were not intended to be lasting that long to begin with.”

Future Review Possible

CHAP’s vote does not mean that Eddie’s and the Eager House won’t ever be demolished.

But it means that the preservation commission has affirmed that it has the legal authority to review and approve any proposals to change their exteriors, including demolition.

If the developer wants to tear down the buildings, he must attend a second hearing to explain why he wants to raze them rather than preserve them. He can cite financial hardship, the economic viability of preservation versus new construction or other reasons. The panel can then vote to accept his argument or reject it.

Richter said after the hearing that he is not giving up. “Obviously, it didn’t go our way,” he said of the vote. But “we have another chance.”

The developer yet to provide any details about hia proposed project other than to say it would have underground parking, a first-floor grocery store or marketplace, and an undisclosed number of residences above.

Richter does not own the building that houses Eddie’s. He said he has a contract to buy it and add it to the parcel he already owns, which includes the Eager House property and a former auto shop at the southeast corner of Cathedral and Eager streets.

“We Want to Stay” in Mount Vernon

Representatives of the family that owns Eddie’s, Bryan Zorn and his sister, Meghan Zorn Barnes, attended the hearing and said they hope to stay in Mount Vernon in some form, whether it’s the current location or a new store.

“We want to remain a viable asset to Mount Vernon,” Zorn said. “For 50-plus years, we have served Mount Vernon. We want to give Mount Vernon what it deserves.”

More than three dozen people attended the hearing.

Many spoke in support of Richter and his development plan. Others said they didn’t believe Eddie’s and the Eager House are architecturally significant. Wesley Stuckey, a graphic designer and Mount Vernon resident, called the block containing the buildings “a dog.”

Johns Hopkins, executive director of Baltimore Heritage, argued for CHAP to vote the way it did. “I think it is extremely important that they followed the CHAP guidelines” regarding contributing buildings, he said. “We look forward to working with the developer as things go forward.”

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