Woodberry community members who fought to save two 1840s stone millworker houses watched today in horror as demolition crews brought them to the ground.
“Call the news! The bulldozers are here! There were no signs about demolition coming! We had no warning,” resident Jill Orlov said in a panicked phone call to The Brew after one of the two structures was reduced to rubble.
A few minutes later she called to say it was too late. Both houses – 3511 and 3523 Clipper Road – were gone.
“It’s over just like that. They’re gone. Two houses from the 1840s are just gone,” Orlov said. “I’m shaking.”
“Not a demolition notice in sight,” tweeted Morgan State University architecture teacher Fred Scharmen, who was on the scene, photographing the demo crews clawing down the stone structures.
No answer to a message left on the phone of the developer, Chris Mfume.
• BACKGROUND: Development and density comes to Woodberry (6/20/18)
His company, CLD Partners, had been meeting with the community and various city agencies and discussing a plan to incorporate the stone structures into his proposed new apartment building.
Housing Department spokeswoman Tammy Hawley said the demolition permit – extended in December – was “not illegal” because it was in effect until the middle of June.
Woodberry Community Association President Sheri Higgins said the group had not known about the permit extension until she did research this morning. “Citizens and the association missed the extension as we had resolved with the developer and architect that the houses would be saved.”
Chris Mfume was scheduled to talk to the association on May 29, but had canceled, Higgins said. “He said he needed to work on some updates. Various studies had not been completed yet.”
The developer may not be speaking yet, but outraged neighbors and community leaders were.
“This is a huge blow to our trust that sensitive development is possible in Baltimore City,” said resident Marian Glebes.
Promise to Save Buildings
As The Brew reported, residents learned about CLD’s plans to tear down the buildings a year ago, when a “Notice of Demolition” sign was posted and the wooden structures attached to the rear of the stone buildings were razed.
Amid an outcry after Mfume said he planned to knock the 170-year-old structures completely down, CLD Partners came up with a design that left the stone facades intact and wrapped a four-story apartment building around them.
“We trusted the Housing Department and we trusted UDAAP [the Urban Design and Architecture Advisory panel] to protect these important historic buildings,” Glebes said.
Mfume brought his plan before UDAAP at a meeting last June. But one of his architects, Pavlina Ilieva, of PI.KL Studio, had to first take care of a an unusual procedural matter before making her presentation.
Ilieva announced that she was recusing herself, since she chairs UDAAP.
She and colleague Kuo Pao Lian went on to discuss the proposed 60-foot tall, 80-unit Woodberry Station project and present their schematics.
The panel recommended a few tweaks to soften “the transition from the old to the new,” but was generally positive about the new design.
“I don’t think this is out of character. . . It’s a win!” crowed UDAAP member and then Baltimore Planning Director Tom Stosur.
Pinkett: “Unaware of plan”
Residents later said they were relieved the buildings were to be saved, though they found the design to still be “pretty massive.
Some still thought 80 units was too many for the site, which is sandwiched between Clipper Road and Light Rail tracks.
Orlov said she happened to spot the demolition crew at about 8:30 this morning when she was walking her dog.
She and other residents said there had been no signs giving notice of demolition plans, as the city requires.
Asked if the developer has broken the law by failing to put up signs giving notice of the demolition, Housing’s Hawley said a code enforcement official was going to the scene.
“But it’s going to be hard at this point to determine that since the building [where the sign should have been posted] is down already,” she said.
“While the demo permits were legal, we share the concern about whether proper notices were posted,” Hawley added.
The demolition workers who took down the building today refused to identify themselves to a reporter.
Councilman Leon F. Pinkett III, who arrived at the site, said he was unaware of any plan to raze the buildings.
“I’m trying to find out what happened,” he said. “To find out who even decided to go against the agreement and the UDAAP design.”
More Brew Coverage
• Development and density coming to Woodberry? (6/20/18)