Contractor: Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse , Baltimore
Centerpoint - an ambitious amalgam of new and old residential and retail space that takes up an entire city block - is but one facet of the master plan developed by Design Collective Inc.  and the West Side Task Force.
Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse has a portfolio of more than 25 years worth of adaptive reuse and historic renovation projects in and around Baltimore, so the company was a natural choice to do the rehabilitation portion. Turner Construction Co., one of the largest general contractors in the country, built the new towers.
According to the NAHB's Urban Housing Trend report, Baltimore is one of a handful of cities where the downtowns have actually gained residents even as the city's overall population decreases.
In December 2001, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc . published a demand and market analysis report that said, "Based on the migration and mobility analyses, and dependent on the creation of appropriate new housing units, approximately 60 percent of the annual market potential of 860 to 1,720 new dwelling units in downtown Baltimore and adjacent neighborhoods could be from households moving from outside the Baltimore city limits.
"Over five years," the report adds, "the realization of that market potential could lead to an increase of up to 2,500 to more than 5,000 new households in the downtown Baltimore area alone."
In this vein, Design Collective Inc.'s master development plan involved the adaptive reuse and renovation of more than 250 historic structures in order to create a new hub of retail and commercial facilities, as well as 2,400 housing units, with more than $800 million in investment from the city and other entities. Centerpoint itself offers more than 80 floorplans of studio, one- and two-bedroom units.
“Working in the city generally requires a great deal of sequencing because the site space is so limited,” says Struever Bros. division manager Stephen Davies. “When you compound that by having a project with two general contractors working in tandem, you need a good, proactive relationship between the two project managers, open dialogue and flexibility, because no matter how much you plan, it will change.”
To encourage smooth working relationships, much attention was paid to materials delivery logistics. Subcommittees including key individuals from each company monitored progress and flagged problems. The diligence paid off by giving Struever Bros. a lifetime association with a prominent, billion-dollar developer/general contractor.
Struever Bros.' work on Centerpoint has created 171 rental units and represents $22.4 million in West Side Renaissance project cost.
Davies says that continued development in and around the West Side neighborhood is what ultimately will determine the project’s success.
“With a project like this, you have to be committed to the development of the entire neighborhood, not just to minimize your risk, but also to know that your project has enduring relevance,” he says.
“You’re breathing life back into something," said Davies. "To be successful doing these types of projects, that has to be an element of the culture.”
Meghan Haynes is a freelance writer living in Chicago.