Apartments Proposed for Vacant Raffel Building on Heath Street

| January 8, 2014 | 2 Comments

Since starting in February of 2012, few topics have produced more inquiries than the condition and future of the Raffel Building at Heath St. and Clarkson St. in South Baltimore. The large blighted building at 111 W. Heath St. is highly visible from I-395 and many points in the community.

photoThough the building has fallen into disrepair, it has a significant past. J.M. Raffel Co., the original tenant of the building, was once credited as one of the early inventors of the cardboard box as trains coming from the Can Company in Canton and Proctor and Gamble in Locust Point passed by the building and needed a better way to transport cargo. However, legal troubles led Raffel to eventually lose its patent.

Now, another real estate development group has put together a plan for the 70,000 sq. ft. building. Poverni Ventures, a development group with a portfolio of 22 projects in Baltimore including a 65-unit building in Old Goucher, is proposing a new 59-unit luxury apartment building at the location.

Development has been eyed for the building since 2004 and Poverni Ventures is the third development group architect Mike Burton, of Urban Design Group, has worked with. There was originally plans for condos and then later for apartments. Burton believes that “third time’s a charm” and described the newest proposal as “economically sound.”

photoThe building received a grant of $348,900 in 2011 from Maryland throughthe Sustainable Communities Tax Credit Program. Poverni is hoping they will still be able to use the grant.

Poverni recently purchased the building in December for $1.05 million and is confident they will close on a construction loan with BB&T in the next month.

The plan calls for 59 apartments broken down as seven studio apartments, 41 one-bedroom apartment and 11 two-bedroom apartments. Architectural elements will be restored in the building including concrete columns, wood timber beams, wood floors, and cast iron buttresses. A fifth story addition, which will not be visible from the street, will be constructed to include several apartments, a rooftop deck, fitness center, and tenant amenities.

As the property backs up to CSX train tracks, high-end noise reduction windows will be installed to limit the noise.  A fence will also be installed along the train tracks and around the parking lot.

In 2007 the property was rezoned to require one parking space for every two dwelling units. With 59 units in the building, the development will include 39 parking spaces. The group is in the process of pursing all other opportunities on and off the site to increase parking. Tenants of the Raffel Building will not be eligible for Area 30 parking passes, which are needed on most blocks near the site.

The only zoning variance needed for the project is a conversion from single family to multi-family. The group will be presenting at the January 14th South Baltimore Neighborhood Association meeting.

They are hoping to begin the project in early spring with a construction timetable of about 15 months.

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Founder and Publisher of, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.