Old building, new opportunity for Southeast CDC

Interior demolition is almost complete at the Southeast CDC’s new headquarters at the corner of Highland and Eastern avenues. The suspended ceilings have been taken down and the lath and plaster have been stripped away to expose the original brick walls and wooden floors.  What is left is a building that’s beautiful – and with lots of potential—potential that was not entirely obvious when SECDC bought the building from the City of Baltimore.

The first floor, which served at various times as a wallpaper and paint store, dime store, catalog store and finally the Highlandtown Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, had a suspended ceiling at nine feet. Tearing down that ceiling, and clearing away the lath and plaster ceiling above it, revealed three more feet of head space, and joists of solid, hand-milled lumber.

Best of all, it’s termite-free.

“That’s the old stuff,” said Chris Ryer, SECDC’s executive director, as he gazed appreciatively at the beams and joists above his head. “That’s actual two-by-ten, not the wood they sell today.”

Modern lumber gets its measure before milling, so a 2×10 will end up as a 1-1/2×9-1/4.

Ryer said that he might decide to put clear varnish on the old wood and let it be rather than putting up another ceiling. “It looks good the way it is. It would be a shame to cover it up,” he said.

The ground floor is ideal for business. SECDC is hoping to attract a restaurant to the space. Steakhouse, anyone? Or perhaps casual dining with a good wine and beer list?

Southeast CDC is bringing the building into the 21st Century while keeping as much of its 19th Century charm as possible.

The building will be one of the first LEED certified buildings on a Baltimore Main Street, with a roof designed to showcase a solar project, rooftop garden, green wall and rain barrels, all accessible from a rooftop deck!  The solar project will reduce the building’s need for power on the grid while the garden, green wall and rain barrels will greatly reduce harmful runoff.

Furthermore, works by local artists will be scattered throughout the building, and even integrated into the architecture, and historic features will be carefully preserved.

“We will show that you can have modern features and historic flavor at the same time,” said Ryer. “And you can do it affordably.”

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