BARCO buys “Load of Fun”
With the negotiations described in our July cover story complete, the Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation (BARCO) purchased the building known as Load of Fun at 120 W. North Avenue, from Sherwin Mark of the 120 West North Ave., LLC on Friday August 23.
Mark, who opened Load of Fun in the former Lombard Office Furniture in 2005, before the Station North Arts and Entertainment District had made the corner of Howard St. and North Avenue a destination location, voluntarily closed the building last August after an anonymous 311 call brought out City inspectors who found that it did not meet requirements for occupancy. In an email he sent to supporters today, Mark said he had to sell the building because it would have cost upwards of $700,000 to meet those occupancy requirements.
“We want to create a system that will allow it [Load of Fun] to be sustainable,” Anthony Hawkins, the President of BARCO, which receives funding from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, told City Paper in July. “The top floor would be for artist-related offices. The second level we think is going to be for all artists, similar to the people who were there before. And the first story will have to be retail, like a cafe, some performance space and a gallery. And that will have to be retail rate so they can support those people who are on the second floor.”
Hawkins said that BARCO’s research found that the artists can only “afford maybe 20 percent of regular retail rates. That’s all they can sustain,” meaning that the retail businesses would, in some sense, have to subsidize them.
This plan was confirmed in an email from Taylor DeBoer of the Deutsch Foundation today. “Artists will have access to the facility at a discounted rate, which will be subsidized by first floor retail, possibly including a restaurant or café, gallery and performance space,” DeBoer wrote in an email, explaining that BARCO ‘s “goal is to design and implement a facility that will be safe, sustainable and affordable for the artist community in Station North and Baltimore.”
Mark has created a blog where people can share memories of the last eight years at Load of Fun.