Developers on Tuesday shared their vision for transforming Baltimore’s historic Car Barn, a structure that once was the base of operations for a long-gone cable car system that shuttled residents around the city.
Renderings of the refurbished 43,000-square-foot building were released on Tuesday by Baltimore-based Cross Street Partners and Beatty Development Group. Two years ago, the firms were named as developers and announced plans for a $15 million renovation, according to The Sun.
Beatty Development says “character-defining” features of the old Baltimore Traction Co. Car Barn at 130 S. Central Ave. — including portions of the exterior face of the building, exposed brick walls, historic windows and skylights — will be preserved. Updates to the building’s systems and interior will also be made.
Initial leasing efforts are underway as the development teams consider uses such as offices, retail, restaurants, a gym, and shared-working and workforce training spaces, Beatty Development said in a press release. Construction is expected to begin next spring.
“The Car Barn represents an incredible opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind space in a neighborhood that has long suffered from disinvestment,” said Bill Struever, CEO and managing partner at Cross Street Partners, in a release. “We’re excited to explore potential uses for the Car Barn that contribute something unique and valuable to this historic neighborhood.”
Baltimore’s cable car system operated briefly in the 1890s, drawing power from large steam engines in powerhouses around the city, including at the Car Barn, The Sun reported in 2021. The cable cars soon gave way to an all-electric streetcar system that operated until 1963.
“The Baltimore Traction Company built a line running from Druid Hill Park to Patterson Park in 1891 using underground steel cables (similar to the system still operating in San Francisco today),” according to the Maryland Center for History and Culture. “The cables were powered by steam engines in nearby warehouses. This cable system was abandoned in 1899 when the company merged with United Railways and Electric Company (UR&E).”
The Car Barn is located a few blocks northeast of Little Italy, near the intersection of East Pratt Street and South Central Avenue.
Its rehabilitation is part of larger redevelopment efforts in the Perkins-Somerset-Oldtown (PSO) community, Beatty Development says. Nearby, aging public housing units are being torn down and replaced by more than 2,000 new mixed-income housing units.
“We envision the Car Barn as a prototype for additional investment in East Baltimore,” Michael Beatty, president of Beatty Development Group, said in a press statement.
“As the affordable housing components of the PSO Transformation Plan take shape, opportunities to move forward with projects like the Car Barn will continue to spring up,” Beatty continued. “These complimentary projects create a positive cycle of outside investment and development that bring programmatic and service uses to the neighborhood, ultimately strengthening the entire area.”
In 2018, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City was awarded a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant to implement Central West Baltimore’s community transformation plan, including Central Avenue where the Car Barn is situated.
Janet Abrams, president and CEO of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, said in a statement Tuesday, “The Housing Authority of Baltimore applauds this historic redevelopment as it supports the vision of the PSO Transformation, and we are happy to contribute to the success of this rehabilitation.”