Hey!

What the heck’s happening with the Powerhouse Arts District?

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Although the city took possession of the historic H & M Powerhouse last year as a result of a land swap with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, plans for its redevelopment are still in the infant stages.

The Port Authority transferred ownership of the historic Powerhouse building at Second and Washington streets in exchange for a nearby city-owned property. The plan was to relocate the power substation that currently sits behind the Powerhouse to this property. The substation supplies electricity to the PATH subway system.

“At this point, we don’t have a plan for redevelopment,” said Councilman James Solomon, noting that the power substation that sits behind the Powerhouse has not yet been moved. “That could take up to four years.”

The Powerhouse was built in 1908. The steel-framed, 200,000-square-foot building has 28-inch-thick brick walls. The massive, 1,300-square-feet windows are the largest of their kind on the East Coast. The access door is big enough for trains to pass through.

When operational, the Powerhouse provided electricity for one of the largest railroad systems in the United States. It later became the power generating facility for the PATH system. When that function ceased, the machinery was removed.

The Powerhouse has lent its name to an arts district encompassing several blocks, zoned to accommodate arts-related work/live spaces and retail. Solomon said the area is in dire need of open space, which will have to be incorporated into any plan that’s adopted.

He said Baltimore-based Cordish Companies was considering building a $179 million retail and commercial complex inside the renovated Powerhouse. The plans included a 40-story residential tower.

“The idea was that the residential tower would pay for developing the commercial complex,” Solomon said. “But right now, we do not have any plans. We have to see the condition of the building, but our goal is to preserve it.”—JCM