SQUARE FEET: REFITTING THE PIECES
The Daily Record
Developer Patrick Turner bucks tradition to transform Federal Hill's landscape
Some people make a living by playing it safe. Patrick Turner has made a living, and a life, by taking risks.
Through his Henrietta Development Corp., which he founded in 1990, Turner has been bucking convention and slowly transforming the landscape of Federal Hill. His off-the-cuff efforts have resulted in rescuing old buildings from oblivion, or the wrecking ball, and giving them new life as interesting places to live or work.
His recent projects include the Federal Hill Lofts, in what had been Southway Bowling Lanes at 1000 S. Charles St.; the McHenry Theater, at 40 E. Cross St., an abandoned vaudeville theater converted to office space; and Henrietta Square, a mixed-use building erected on a vacant lot at 911 S. Charles St.
"I always look for unusual things that are outside the box," says Turner. "I love the idea of taking something that was one thing and conceptually making it into something else. ...I make all the pieces of the puzzle come together and work together."
Architect Chris Pfaeffle of Parameter Inc. has worked closely with Turner on several projects, including the Federal Hill Lofts and the McHenry Theater. Now they are collaborating on the renovation of the long-vacant Holy Cross School at 111 E. West St. in Federal Hill, converting it into luxury condominiums, and on the addition of a second story to the Cross Street Market, also in Federal Hill.
"Pat's not afraid to take on projects that others might not have the vision to see the potential in, and that's one of the many things I like about him," says Pfaeffle.
The McHenry, for example, had been closed for the better part of 30 years. Its sloping floor and lack of windows were drawbacks to traditional renovation. And most discussions about restoring the 1917 structure hinged on maintaining its role as a theater, which would not have been a viable use in the neighborhood.
But Turner and Pfaeffle were able to imagine the space as offices, and Turner raised the $1.8 million needed to get the job done. They leveled the floor and opened up large sections of wall to add interest and natural light. The renovated building now is occupied by Key Technologies, with a law firm soon to occupy the rest of the space.
The building has 30-foot ceilings, and the top half of the interior walls is glass, so the architectural details are visible throughout. Those details include a 35-foot, gold-leaf dome and intricately carved cornices and pediments.
He and Turner share a common vision, says Pfaeffle, "of improving the urban landscape, preserving old buildings, and finding acceptable uses for them — and those uses may be atypical."
Broke in Baltimore
After graduating from high school in 1969, Turner was drafted to serve a tour in Vietnam. Two years later after he returned to the states, he ran out of money on a cross-country trip, leaving him stranded in Baltimore. He decided to pursue studies at Loyola College in Maryland — first in architecture, them marketing — although he did not complete his degree.
Turner made his living early on as a marketing manager for Citicorp. In the mid-1970s, he started buying, renovating and reselling houses in Federal Hill, just when the are was starting to become gentrified. He also owned Lush's bar on Cross Street from 1978 to 1982.
Eventually, he realized he had a talent for commercial development. "I see things that don't even exist," says Turner, who is 51. "I can see a piece of dirt and see a skyscraper."
Now he lives in Guilford with his wife, Jeanine Turner, whom he met at a Keanu Reeves party during the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. He enjoys skiing, traveling and mountain biking. It's a pretty good existence, he admits.
"I appreciate life. I think it's great," he says.
But life wasn't always juice bars and jet skis for Turner. "It took 30 years of hard work to get to this point," he says.
A native of Miami, Turner recalls a difficult childhood for him and his brother and sister. "Some people are born with silver spoons. I was born with a plastic fork," he quips. "I remember bones being boiled to make soup, and that was dinner at night."
His eyes were opened in Vietnam, where he saw rich and poor alike felled by gunfire and grenades.
"The biggest awakening was to see that everyone was equal," Turner said. It gave him a confidence boost, he says, to know that, despite his humble beginnings, he could make something of his life.
Not all of his development projects have gone smoothly, but he perseveres with patience and pragmatism, colleagues say.
Turner made enemies early on with the loft project in the old bowling alley, but he managed to win over his opponents by listening to and addressing their concerns. He even spent about $50,000 to have the pin-setting equipment removed so South Baltimore's bowling aficionados, who were trying to keep their beloved Southway in their community, could install them in another location.
Remarkably, Turner disarmed his opponents and completed the loft project.
'He did that by being very patient and trying to appease people," says Pfaeffle, who also praised Turner's ability to move past difficult situations and focus on more productive opportunities.
Take his Crash Cafe project, for example. For several years. Turner had been planning to renovate the old Globe Brewing Co. warehouse on Key Highway and create a bar with a disaster theme, featuring a DC-3 plane smack-dab in the middle of the bar. After 9-11, though, he has scrapped the idea.
'We spent three-quarters of a million dollars on the project," Turner says. So now, he is renovating the property as a six-story, 48-unit luxury condominium project with garage parking. "Failure is only a failure when you quit," he says.
Turner's strengths, Pfaeffle says, are "commitment, passion and overall excitement to be doing what he's doing. If you have all of those things, you're definitely going to be successful."
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