July 17 2014

Adaptive Reuse of Former Breweries Brings Charm Back to Baltimore Neighborhoods

It’s hard to pass through Baltimore, Maryland without seeing a mural, billboard, or the giant winking head that symbolizes the once prominent brewing industry of the city’s history. Two of the largest breweries in the U.S., the National and Gunther Breweries, once operating in Baltimore, have remained beloved brands of the city even after closing their doors and subsequently blighting adjacent neighborhoods for years. Similar to other former industrial complexes of Baltimore, the breweries were recently redeveloped for mixed and residential uses that are bringing new excitement to the area – without forgetting the past.

Architecturally, the Brewers Hill area, north of Boston Street, is an exciting mix of new and old, taking advantage of green design and architecture to meet historic preservation requirements. Bottle cap signs, neon monikers, and metal louvers, tie all of the buildings to the brewing theme, whether the buildings are new or old. Some of the original vats, heavy doors, and smokestacks were cleaned up and kept as features both inside and outside of the Gunther Apartment Complex, in addition to themed building names like the “Ale” and “Barley” buildings and a parking lot labeled as the “Fermenting Cellar.”

The Gunther, Brewers Hill, Baltimore, Maryland

Aside from architecture, I noticed a lot of health and financial related businesses (MetLife, Bravo! Health, and Cigna to name a few) who provide a growing number of employment opportunities; important for a future Red Line accessible neighborhood. The newly added apartments, condos, and town homes are also just blocks away from Port of Baltimore’s expanding industrial activity and even closer to the brand-new shops at Canton Crossing. Concerning design, Canton Crossing is an oddly sprawl-like, suburban style (i.e. huge parking lot, sterile facades, chain stores) shopping center directly across from the buildings I’ve previously praised - I’m probably going to write an entirely separate blog about that!

Natty Boh Tower, MetLife, Brewers Hill, Baltimore, Maryland

It seems that Baltimore has found success in embracing its history as a way of branding the city. It takes more than charm and beer to attract new residents and businesses though - such as tax incentives and improvement of infrastructure.  It also helps to have all of the elements working at the same time, which I think is the case for Brewers Hill. A charming neon head winks at everyone, beer is still available (but mostly brewed elsewhere in the city), the City is trying a few methods to reduce tax burden for residents and developers, and there’s a sign marking the future light rail station for Brewers Hill. So… check, check, check, and optimistic and preemptive check!

Do you think Brewers Hill is a sign of Baltimore moving in the right direction? What adaptive reuse projects have been successful in your city?

Credits: Images by Jade Clayton. Data linked to sources.

Jade Clayton

Jade Clayton recently received her B.S. in economics and business administration from Towson University in Towson, Maryland. She is currently pursuing a post-baccalaureate certificate in internet application design, and hopes to receive a Master’s in urban planning. Her interest in planning began with a high school internship for the downtown partnership in her hometown of Frederick, Maryland. This interest has grown since attending college near the City of Baltimore, where the potential for innovative and sustainable urban growth is abundant, as are the challenges. Since receiving her undergraduate degree, Jade has been working full-time as a research assistant at Towson University, providing analysis and research on the local and regional economy in Maryland. Since graduating, Jade has spent her newfound free time becoming reacquainted with her love for the outdoors, backpacking through five European cities, and getting to know Baltimore a little better every day.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 17th, 2014 at 9:56 am and is filed under Architecture, Branding, Community/Economic Development, History/Preservation, Housing, Infrastructure, Jade Clayton, Land Use, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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