An Overview of the Continuing Transformation of Wells Street in South Baltimore

| July 24, 2019 | 0 Comments

Wells St., which runs four blocks east to west from Riverside Park to S. Hanover St. in the Riverside and South Baltimore neighborhoods, continues to undergo a transformation. Newly-announced development projects will continue to change the landscape of this street that has seen a lot of investment over the last 15 years. Comprised of CSX train tracks until the 1970s, the street is now home to new apartments, restaurants, and offices. It will likely soon see construction on five additional mixed-use developments as well.

The first two developments that began to change Wells St. were an expansion of National Federation of the Blind (NFB) in 2004, and the opening of 101 Wells in 2005.

In 2005, NFB opened a new five-story, 183,500 sq. ft. building at 200 E. Wells St. with office and event space and two levels of parking. This was attached to its existing four-story 160,000 sq. ft. brick building that was first built in 1907 and became the organizations headwaters in 1978. NFB now has a 343,500 sq. ft. complex that is home to about 70 employees and serves as an events space for the organization. NFB could soon add a lot of additional foot traffic to the area as it is offering up to 100,000 sq. ft. of office space for lease to other companies it its building. NFB is also currently taking on a renovation of the Barney Street Wing of its complex to add new sleeping rooms and a fitness facility.

101 Wells is a multi-building complex from PMC Property Group. It turned the former National Stamping and Enameling Company into a complex with 183 apartments. It has surface parking lots and common green spaces.

Following the opening of 101 Wells, the real estate market crashed in the mid-2000s and several townhome developments that were eyed for parcels on Wells St. fell through.

Wells St. began to show signs of revitalization again in 2011 as construction began on 1901 South Charles by Chesapeake Realty Partners. 1901 South Charles, which opened in 2012, is a 193-unit apartment building that replaced a long-vacant and overgrown industrial property that occupied an entire block facing E. Wells St. and Charles St. The project included a 290-car parking garage.

1901 South Charles also reopened a block of Winder St. at the rear of the property and extended Marshall St. to Winder St. SouthBMore.com estimated the new streets added more than 25 street parking spots to the area as well as added new alley access to the 1900 block of Light St.

Chesapeake Realty Partners doubled down on Wells St. as it announced 2 East Wells across the street in 2012. This replaced a warehouse that was once the home of forklift sales company McCall and was later leased to various companies. 2 East Wells began construction in 2013 and opened in 2015. It has 153 apartments and 6,000 sq. ft. of retail along Wells St., as well as a 260-car parking garage.

2 East Wells added new on-street parking spaces to the alley in between the building and the 1800 block of S. Charles St., and created a new alley on a portion of Barney St. that allowed those home to add parking pads for the first time.

Chesapeake Realty Partners renovated a pocket park at the northeast corner Wells St. and S. Charles St. in 2016.

Seafood restaurant Minnow opened in May of last year in a 3,723 sq. ft retail space at 2 East Wells. Baltimore Soup Company opened in a 2,000 sq. ft. retail space in 2018, but also closed during that year. Baltimore Soup Company’s retail space is now available for lease.

Chesapeake Realty Partners sold 2 East Wells and 1901 South Charles St. to Broadtree Residential in 2018.

The former Pabst Castle at 1834 S. Charles St. was the home to Maryland Glass & Mirror Company in the early 2000s before the company relocated to Carroll-Camden Industrial Area. In 2012, Spike Owens and Mike McDonald had hoped to open a brewery and tap room in the building, but eventually decided the building would not be large enough to grow their brewing operation. After eyeing 101 W. Dickman St., which eventually became City Garage, Owens and McDonald opened Key Brewing Co. in a 20,000 sq. ft. warehouse in Dundalk in 2016.

In 2015, renovations began on the Pabst Castle and it was announced in 2016 that social media cybersecurity company ZeroFox would be relocating to the castle and converting it to an office building. ZeroFox opened its 11,000 sq. ft. headquarters at the former Pabst Castle in 2016. The brick was cleaned up; windows that were bricked up were reopened;  an addition and rooftop deck was added; and former Pabst Brewing Company medallions on the facade were restored.

In 2018, Stephen Wilhide announced he would be redeveloping the approximately 30,000 sq. ft. former slaughterhouse at 1900 Light St. Wilhide’s company Wilhide Draperies Inc. (WDI) was formerly a tenant of the building before relocating to Southwest Baltimore. The property, which is comprised of four connected buildings and that dates back to 1885, is also currently home to apartments and additional office spaces.

Wilhide is planning a 38,000 sq. ft. office and retail building with 5,500 sq. ft of retail facing Well St. He is likely adding a restaurant or two at the space. Some demolition and restoration of the historic building has already taken place, but Wilhide said he would reveal his complete vision for the property soon.

Wilhide also owns 1827 Marshall St. directly across Wells St. from 1900 Light St. The 2,160 sq. ft., one-story garage is the home of couple local contractors. Wilhide has not announced any development plans for this building, but this parcel on Well St. could likely be redeveloped.

A flurry of news about Wells St. came this year as four new developments were announced. The first development from Premier Storage Investors (PSI) is a five-story, 90,000 sq. ft, 820-unit ExtraSpace Storage facility at 1900 S. Charles St. ExtraSpace Storage will take the place of a one-story warehouse and grass lot that is currently occupied by pipe, fitting, valve, and gauge business Pratt Thompson Company. Pratt Thompson has not announced its future plans.

The ExtraSpace Storage facility will have a three-story section along W. Wells St. with an office and brick facade, a one-story section at the corner of S. Charles St. and W. Wells St., and a five-story section at the south end of the property near the train tracks and I-95. More brick was added to the design at the suggestion of the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association. The plan was approved by Baltimore City Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals (BMZA) in July and is expected to begin construction in the coming months.

Wood Partners is planning two new apartment buildings totaling 525 apartments on the 1800 and 1900 blocks of S. Hanover St. which intersect with Wells St. The properties are comprised of a former one-story warehouse at 1800 S. Hanover St. and the former Middleton & Meads property which occupies the entire 1900 block of S. Hanover St. and the western section of the 1800 block of S. Hanover St. The properties are owned by local developer Caves Valley Partners (CVP), which will demolish the existing structure next month before selling the land to Wood Partners.

Middleton & Meads recently completed its relocation to Carroll-Camden Industrial Area.

Wood Partners was approved last July at BMZA for a six-story, 267-unit apartment building with a 367 parking spaces, a garage, and a 1,000 sq. ft. retail space on the 1800 block of S. Hanover St. The building design was presented to to Baltimore City Planning Department’s Urban Design & Architecture Advisory Panel (UDAAP) this past June. This building is expected to begin construction this coming winter.

Wood Partners was approved last week by BMZA for a six-story, 258-unit apartment building with 370 parking spaces, a garage, and 1,000 sq. ft. of ground-floor retail on the 1900 block of S. Hanover St. The project did not need any variances from BMZA, but did need a conditional use for the required height of the building. Wood Partners has not provided SouthBMore.com with additional details about when it intends to start construction on Phase Two.

A half a block off of Wells St. is 1901 Light St. which is a historic five-story building that is currently the home of Guardian Moving & Storage Co. The building is attached to 101 Wells. Transwestern Commercial Services (TCS) announced earlier this month that building owner Ossani Investments Inc. is seeking a development partner to convert the 138,000 sq. ft. building into more than 140 apartments.

1901 Light St. has two large metal warehouses adjacent to the historic brick buildings. Those are likely to get demolished and replaced by surface parking lot according to Justin Shay of TCS.

Shay said they are hoping to pursue Maryland State tax credits in August 2020 with a new development partner and hope to begin construction on the project in late-2020 or early-2021. Construction will likely to take around 18 months.

Shay said Guardian Moving & Storage Co. will relocate to a new facility in the area and TCS is working with them on the search. Guardian has been headquartered at 1901 Light St. for more than 50 years.

At the end of Wells St. at Riverside Park will be an expansion of the athletic fields into a property Baltimore City Recreation and Parks acquired from CSX. CSX used this property when Wells St. was entirely train tracks, but the tracks were later diverted a block south and underneath I-95. This expansion of Riverside Park could also see a new sidewalk along the south side of Riverside Park adjacent to Wells St. and a new parking lot. This improvement to Riverside Park will renovate all athletic facilities at the 17-acre park and update the field house and bathrooms. This project could begin construction next year. Baltimore City Recreation and Parks is currently undertaking a stormwater management plan for this project.

In total, Wells St. has added 529 new apartments, 6,000 sq. ft. of retail and 194,500 sq. ft. of office space since 2004. Currently there are 665 apartments, 8,000 sq. ft. of new retail space, 30,000 sq. ft. of office space, 820 storage units, and expanded athletic facilities planned for Wells St.

Wells St. Google Streetview Screenshots from 2008 vs. 2018

Corner of Light St. and Wells St. looking south

Corner of W. Wells St. and S. Hanover St. looking east

1900 S. Charles St. 

ExtraSpace Storage Renderings at 1901 S. Charles St. shared to South Baltimore Neighborhood Association by Premier Storage Investors

1900 Light St. 

1901 Light St. 

Conceptual Renderings for 1901 Light St. courtesy of Transwestern Commercial Services and Urban Design Group

1800 and 1900 S. Hanover St.

Rendering for Alta Federal Hill at 1800 S. Hanover St. courtesy of Wood Partners and Design Collective

1800 and 1900 block of S. Hanover project site rendering from Wood Partners and Design Collective that was shared with SBNA

ZeroFox at 1834 S. Charles St. 

1827 Marshall St. 

Winder St. which was reopened in 2012

101 Wells and National Federation of the Blind on the 100 and 200 blocks of E. Wells St. 

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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