BALTIMORE (Map, News) – One-eyed Mr. Boh is alive and well, and soon his old stomping grounds will be teeming with people again.
They won’t be brewing “Natty Boh” or any of the other beers that made Baltimore’s Brewers Hill famous. Instead, they will be writing a new chapter in the history of the National Brewing Co. landmark where the National Bohemian beer brand first came to market.
Brewers Hill is a massive redevelopment under way in the city’s Canton area that will transform two old brewery complexes — National Brewery and Gunther Brewery — into residential, retail and office space that one day could total 1.9 million square feet.
Phase one of the project, which features office space, is almost complete, said David Knipp of Obrecht Commercial Real Estate Inc., a small development firm that specializes in the redevelopment of old industrial and commercial properties. His firm is working in concert with the construction and development firm Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse Inc. to bring the project to market.
“Phase Two will be 1,000 residential units and 600,000 square feet of retail,” Knipp said.
In total, the project encompasses 30 acres on real estate located south of Highlandtown and east of Canton.
Knipp declined to reveal the cost of the redevelopment effort. He did, however, say the investment was “significant.”
The breakdown of the Brewers Hill project is impressive for its scale. There’s the Natty Boh Building, the Malt Mill, the Grain Building, the Lager Building, the Barrel Building, the Ale Building, the Hops Building, the Pilsner Building, the Stout Building and the Barley Building. And then there are the Shops at Brewers Hill. All will pay homage to the generations of German brewers who brought life to the neighborhood during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
When National Brewing closed its doors in 1978, the brewers left, and the neighborhood fell to urban neglect.
When it’s all said and done, the Brewers Hill project will have about a dozen buildings filled with businesses, retail shops, restaurants, pubs and homes.
While Knipp said the project will bring much-needed improvement to the neighborhood, one historian said it could be difficult.
“The neighborhood has changed so completely since the time when it was a neighborhood of all Germans,” said Francis O’Neill, the reference librarian at the Maryland Historical Society. “It’s going to be really, really hard to stabilize the neighborhood where the brewery is, but getting something there that will stay for a while will be an important first step.”
But, O’Neill said, Baltimore’s trend for adaptive reuse of old industrial buildings is making headway in other parts of the city.
“On Lombard and Howard streets — where the old garment industry buildings are — no one thought they would be able to bring those kind of buildings back, but they have,” he said.