The Morris A. Mechanic theatre was built in 1967 as a component of the larger Charles Center redevelopment project. It enjoyed some early success, but only a few years after construction, it was struggling. By 1975, it closed for the first time.
In 1976, the theatre reopened, now leased by the City of Baltimore after $500k in renovations. Also in 1976, construction on Baltimore's Metro Subway began, with the Charles Center station being constructed directly adjacent to the theatre, opening in 1983.
In 2005, the development firm David S. Brown Enterprises acquired the vacant property for $6mn. The structure sat vacant for years up until 2014, when the firm demolished the structure, planning to build 500 apartments at the site.
However, it is now 2023. The promised apartments never materialized, and the hole in the ground remains, now covered with artificial turf. In June of 2022, the developer demanded a 25 year PILOT tax break from the city to move forward with any plans for redevelopment.
It is a shame that the property has been allowed to languish for this long. The developer has squatted on the property for nearly 20 years. It sits atop a major metro station, and could become the crown jewel of the redevelopment of Downtown Baltimore.
As a city, we need to hold developers accountable, and leverage our transit assets. We cannot afford to let valuable real estate near transit sit vacant or be used for surface parking rather than housing people.
Based on further research, it appears the lot is only valued at $1.16mn, and the owner only pays $27.5k per year in property tax. Clearly it is more profitable to squat on the land in hopes of a future upside than to actually improve it.