Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Mechanic Needs a Tune Up

The Committee on Historical and Architectural Preservation is meeting today to discuss the fate of the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre at Charles Center. Preservationists seek to put the architecturally unique (yet unaesthetically pleasing) structure on the Baltimore City Landmark list. Developers David S. Brown Enterprises LTD seeks to renovated and incorporate the theatre into a new 30-story mixed used facilities with retail on the lower levels. They hope to utilize much of the existing structure without damaging it or hurting the significance of it. Preservationists don’t fully agree and hope to stop the proposal in its tracks.

Now, I’m all up for preserving historic buildings, but it may start a bad precedent. Blocking this proposal could feasible kill any future attempt to do anything at that site. The Mechanic sits on some prime real estate at Charles Center, smack in the middle of the Central BD. The Mechanic is no Hippodrome, neither in capacity or looks. Sure the Mechanic is unique as it represents late 1960s/70s brutalism (the name fits the appearance), and it isn’t the only structure of its kind in Baltimore (see Loyola/Notre Dame Library at Loyola College). However, many see the building as an eyesore, as a lump of concrete rectangles in the middle of an otherwise nice plaza.

David S. Brown’s team brings in a great compromise: recycle the Mechanic into something that is needed (sustainable retail) while not wasting a good piece of ground. Hopefully CHAP will see it this way. Seriously, it's not that bad of a building, c'mon we've seen worse...

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