Southwest Partnership Purchases Lord Baltimore Theatre, Looks to Create Cultural Arts Center

| October 1, 2019 | 0 Comments

The Southwest Partnership (SWP), a nonprofit that is a coalition of seven neighborhood associations and six anchor institutions in Southwest Baltimore, has purchased the former Lord Baltimore Theater at 1110 W. Baltimore St. in Hollins Market/Poppleton with hopes of bringing it back to life as a cultural arts and education center.

SWP purchased the approximately 14,000 sq. ft. building on .32 acres in April for $1,000,000, according to tax records. SWP has spent the last five months stabilizing the building. Renovations have totaled about $275,000 so far according to SWP Executive Director Michael Seipp. This has included roof work, cleaning up environmental issues, and installing new flooring. The original theater seats had to be removed due to mold.

A third of SWP’s funding comes from Southwest Baltimore anchor institutions, a third comes from the Goldseker Foundation, and a third comes from the State of Maryland. SWP also receives large grants for property acquisition and smaller grants for community cleanups.

SWP is setting up a nonprofit to transfer ownership of the Lord Baltimore Theater. SWP received a grant from the Abel Foundation to hire a consultant to setup up a board of directors for the new nonprofit to help with fundraising, managing, and having a connection with the arts community.

Seipp has tapped Southwest Baltimore-native Lawrence Giliard Jr., who is an actor with roles including D’Angelo Barksdale in The Wire and Bob Stookey in The Walking Deadto lead fundraising for the Lord Baltimore Theater project. He will also be chairman of the board of the new nonprofit.

Seipp estimates the construction could cost about $10 million to create the cultural arts and education center. Seipp said they will likely cut up the building so that is has classroom space, an art gallery, and a smaller theater than it currently has. There are also plans to set up housing upstairs for resident artists where they could live in exchange for educations services to kids in the neighborhood.

The new main entrance to Hollins Market, which is being redeveloped by Baltimore Public Markets Corporation and Scott Plank’s War Horse Cities, will be on Carlton St., which is a one-block pathway between Hollins Market and the Lord Baltimore Theater.

The Lord Baltimore Theater project is just one piece of SWP’s bold vision, which has been outlined on Google Maps, to redevelop many areas of Barre Circle, Franklin Square, Hollins Roundhouse, Mount Clare, Pigtown, Poppleton, and Union Square. Some of the areas in these neighborhoods have a lot of blight including vacant houses and commercial buildings. SWP has put much of its focus on bringing W. Baltimore St., which has vacant storefronts and buildings in need of repair, back to life.

Seipp said SWP tries to own as little property as possible as it wants to focus on connecting its network of developers with projects. It now controls many vacant properties in the area and is able to assist developers in the often-difficult task of getting title of the vacant buildings.

“Clean title is the hardest part of what we do,” Seipp said. This process makes it easier for developers to get larger clusters of homes or land and not just individual houses surrounded by other vacant homes.

Seipp said that the “energy level is changing” on W. Baltimore St. which he said used to be seen as “a desert.”

The entire south side of the 1000 block of W. Baltimore St. has been stabilized with new facade grants from Baltimore Development Corporation and new apartments by developer Cecil Clarke. SWP has purchased the soon-to-close Littlepage’s Furniture store property at 1313 to 1317 W. Baltimore St. and will look for a new user to go in there. Seipp said they already have developers on many of the blocks of W. Baltimore St. who are already doing work.

SWP bought the former Capital Theater at 1518 W. Baltimore St. and sold it to Social Impact Development which is working on new uses for the space. Seipp said SWP might move its offices to the building.

SWP has also identified different buildings in the area that should be demolished, some of which will be replaced with new parks. SWP is also working with developers on projects in neighborhoods like Franklin Square, Mount Clare, and Poppleton that have not yet attracted the same investment as other Southwest Baltimore neighborhoods.

SWP is also promoting the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) Live Near Your Work (LNYW) program which offers eligible employees a UMB grant of $16,000, plus a matching grant of $2,500 from Baltimore City for employees who live in the Southwest Baltimore communities. Seipp said 28 employees bought houses in Southwest Baltimore in 2018.

Some large projects in Southwest Baltimore include the UM BioPark which has a growing footprint along the 800 and 900 blocks of W. Baltimore St. along with some adjacent blocks. A new UMB Community Engagement Center recently started construction at 16 S. Poppleton in a formerly-vacant 20,000 sq. ft. building, and BioPark partner Wexford Science & Technology is planning a $200-plus million, 10-story, 333,000 sq. ft. office and biotech building at the northwest corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and W. Baltimore St.

CenterWest by La Cite Development is under construction in Poppleton on Phase 1. This will bring 260 apartments and 15,000 sq. ft. of retail to two buildings on N. Schroeder St. Phase 1 hosted a ribbon cutting in November of last year, but the buildings are not yet open. The entire project, which has been in the works since 2005, is projected to add 1,700-1,800 housing units and 100,000-200,000 sq. ft. of commercial space to Poppleton.

War Horse Cities has acquired more than 45 properties around Hollins Market and is planning renovated homes, renovated commercial spaces, and 15 new townhomes. War Horse recently began construction on residential rowhome renovations around Hollins Market. The new townhomes are expected to begin construction in the coming months. War Horse is also redeveloping a vacant 46,710 sq. ft. former Montgomery Ward shirt factory at 1020 W. Pratt St. into an office building.

Lord Baltimore Theater 

Back side of the Lord Baltimore Theater which is also adjacent to homes that are getting demolished on the 1100 block of W. Fayette St. 

Carlton St. between the Lord Baltimore Theater and Hollins Market 

Newly-renovated south side of the 1000 block of W. Baltimore St.

Littlepage’s Furniture store property at 1313 to 1317 W. Baltimore St.

1500 block of W. Baltimore St. with the Capital Theater (yellow building)

Demolitions on the 100 block of N. Carrollton 

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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