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Fire threatens future of Old Town Mall

Developers hold out hope for revitalization
Posted at 8:59 PM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-25 18:15:42-04

BALTIMORE — The flames lit up the sky in East Baltimore.

"When we arrive on the scene, we had heavy fire and smoke showing from one of the dwellings within the strip mall," said Blair Adams of the Baltimore City Fire Department.

The Old Town Mall, which dates back in its various forms a hundred years, but has been awaiting new life for decades now.

"When I heard it was on fire, of course my heart was beating like a drum," said Steve Tsamouras who has invested heavily in the north end of the mall, amassing 19 addresses and eight tenants.

While the fire turned out being in a vacant building at the south end of the mall, Tsamouras feels the fate of both ends is at stake when any portion of the buildings are damaged or destroyed.

"We need to develop the north side as well in the same manner that the south side is going to be developed so we work together to make sure than we bring new blood into the mall," said Tsamouras.

It is a vision of matching part of the city's past to its future on a piece of prime real estate sandwiched between Johns Hopkins and downtown Baltimore, but the question now is whether the architecture will survive long enough for it to happen.

"I don't even know how the fire started, because the buildings are empty... vacant. I would rather see them come down," said Mayor Jack Young. "From what I'm seeing, I don't see any more historical significance to the building now."

Investigators don't know the source of this latest fire, but a portion of the same building collapsed last week, and a building in the north end caved in on itself last month, which suggests time may be running out to save this piece of the city's history before it reaches the point of no return.