Former Brager-Gutman building will be converted to an 80-bed facility with retail and office space. – Baltimore Business Journal

Former Brager-Gutman building will be converted to an 80-bed ...

A vacant and blighted former department store in downtown Baltimore would be converted into an 80-bed skilled nursing facility with street-level retail under a plan approved by the board of Baltimore Development Corp. Thursday.

The proposed redevelopment of the former Epstein’s and Brager-Gutman department store at 201-213 W. Lexington St. could begin later this year, the development team of Mid-Atlantic Health Care LLC, Baltimore Nursing and Rehabilitation Realty and Kann Partners said.

The group will pay the city $1.2 million for the building. State records show the city purchased it for $5 in May 2008 from Julius Gutman & Co. Inc.

It is the latest chapter in the redevelopment of what was once known as the $152 million “super block” downtown. That project, which fell apart amid financing and planning woes in 2013, aimed to restart development on the city’s west side of downtown with new housing, retail, office space and and parking.

The 4-acre area’s boundaries are the 100 block of Clay Street and 200 block of West Lexington Street to the north, West Fayette Street to the south, North Liberty Street to the east, and the 100 block of North Howard Street to the west. The city’s goal now is to find several developers to convert the space into new use.

“It’s taken a long time to move some of those parcels, but we’ve seen significant interest and are veDiguyur Hujan Deras, Berlin Kebanjiran | My News | Pinterestry encouraged by the diversity and quality of the responses we’re getting,” said William H. Cole IV, president of the BDC. “I think it’s encouraging for the west side.”

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An artist’s rendering of an 80-bed skilled nursing facility planned for 201-213 W. Lexington St.

The skilled nursing facility in the former department store, of 112,996 square feet, would have a staff of 100 workers and operate in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical System. The plans would also add 12,000 square feet of retail space to the street level and 25,000 square feet of commercial office space.

The eight-story building first opened in 1929 and at one point was occupied by Brager-Gutman, another former department store in the old Howard Street retail corridor that is known today as the Market Center National Historic District. The area is also a state-designated enterprise zone, making it eligible for hiring tax credits.

Cole said the BDC’s planning committee met recently and vetted the nursing center proposal and a second one submitted to convert the building into 86 market rate apartments. The city put out a request for proposals in September.

The committee voted to recommend the skilled nursing facility option, he said, because it could lead to new jobs downtown. BDC officials estimated the building would hold about 200 new jobs in nursing facility and retail and 75 construction jobs.

“It was a unique proposal that seemed to fit very well, with the University of Maryland Medical System and academic campus nearby, and one that certainly had great financial implications for the city,” Cole said. “It fills a market need too, having those beds. And rehabilitating that building is a very important start for the rest of that block.”

The development team built a 67-bed skilled nursing facility in Waldorf and worked on the Healthcare for the Homeless building in Baltimore.

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