BCCC Bard Building demolition will clear way for new downtown green space

“Baltimore City Community College is planning to demolish its long-vacant Bard Building in downtown Baltimore and turn the property into green space while the school determines a permanent use for the property.

A contract to demolish the five-story, 172,600-square-foot building that previously housed a library, classrooms and staff offices, located at 600 E. Lombard St., was approved at Wednesday’s state Board of Public Works meeting.

Adjacent to the Holocaust Memorial and the Power Plant Live! complex, the reconstruction will regrade the site with trees for shade bordering three sides of the plot, according to the meeting agenda. Existing streets and sidewalks will also be restored for pedestrian use and some lighting will be added for safety.

Howard Libit, the executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said the group had been in conversations with the state about ensuring that the memorial is protected during demolition and they are confident that the appropriate steps will be taken.

“We believe that the current state of the building has discouraged visitors to the nearby Holocaust Memorial,” Libit wrote to The Baltimore Banner in an email on Tuesday. “We are deeply appreciative to Senate President [Bill] Ferguson and the state for putting together the money to facilitate the demolition of the Bard Building.”

 He also acknowledged that though the project may at times encroach on the edge of the Holocaust Memorial property, the state has made it clear that the winning bidder is committed to protecting the memorial, he wrote.

The $4.2 million contract was awarded to Baltimore’s The Berg Corp. through a sealed bid, according to state documents.

“We are hopeful that the green space that is currently planned for the site will be a needed addition to downtown and ultimately help highlight the importance of the Holocaust Memorial. We believe that a plan will be put in place to ensure that the open space site is kept clean and safe once demolition is completed,” Libit added in his emailed statement.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Gov. Wes Moore highlighted the building demolition, reminding attendees it has been 14 years since BCCC shut down operations in the building — “And during that time, this building has fallen into significant disrepair.”

”Today this board is taking a critical step to be able to finally demolish the vacant building,” Moore said, praising what he called the “visionary leadership” of BCCC President Debra McCurdy.

Moore renewed his administration’s commitment to partnering with McCurdy, city leadership and stakeholders after demolition to advance the plans for the space.

”We’re very excited to see what’s in store for this property, the role that is going to play in downtown Baltimore, and to continue the dialogue and the engagement for many, many years to come,” Moore said.

McCurdy thanked Moore and expressed appreciation to the administration for advancing the project. ”We just can’t be more thrilled to move forward, and then to begin to introduce to this community, I think, the larger vision for what could happen in the old Bard site,” she said.

In 2021, the college and state legislators disagreed on future uses for the space. Ferguson, a Democrat, opposed plans to turn the property into a parking lot and asked then-Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, to find money in the state budget to demolish the property, according to an article from the Baltimore Business Journal.

Power Plant Live!’s lead developer, David Cordish of the Cordish Cos., attempted to add the Bard Building to the company’s portfolio with plans to convert it to retail and residential units in 2017.However, the four-year long project was rejected in April 2021 by McCurdy, who said it was not in the best interest of the college.

Cordish also tried to purchase to the Bard Building in 2010 before the deal fell through two years later over costs, the Baltimore Business Journal reported in 2012.

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