For years, Baltimore County residents had complained about the appearance of the aging Pikesville Plaza office building that was shuttered recently due to structural concerns.
Sometimes, they spotted trash and tall weeds on the property. Several times, residents reported that chunks of the building’s facade appeared to be detaching and falling to the ground.
Baltimore County closed the seven-story building July 12, saying inspectors had noticed structural issues in the underground parking garage, which wasn’t being used, and unpermitted construction work during a routine survey of the building at 600 Reisterstown Road. The closure displaced a barbecue restaurant and a dentist’s office, among other businesses.
Some nearby residents said the closing didn’t come as much of a surprise, given the maintenance issues visible to those passing by the building on the busy thoroughfare.
The building’s owner, listed in property records as Plaza Investors LLC, first presented plans to redo its aging concrete facade with glass and granite about nine years ago. The plans received approval from the county’s design review panel, but never made the improvements.
Plaza Investors was formed by attorney Michael J. Snider, whose law firm is in the building. Plaza Investors shares its address with the Law Offices of Snider & Associates. Snider did not respond to multiple calls and emails for comment.
Snider presented a new plan to county officials in January that included the improvements originally proposed in 2012 but also landscaping updates and a new parking garage behind the building. The old underground parking garage, his contractors said, wasn’t viable.
“The garage is in terrible shape,” Snider told the county panel in January. “The prior owner didn’t put any money into the building whatsoever.”
Property records show Plaza Investors bought the building in 2011 from another company for nearly $3.3 million. The state values the building at nearly $5.9 million for tax purposes.
As panelists debated about the renderings in January, Snider, who also goes by the first name Mordechai, explained the eight-year delay.
“I apologize that it’s taken us eight years to get a bank to be willing to finance this…,” he said. “I don’t want to drag this out another year or so and have the bank withdraw their offer of funding.”
Online records of Baltimore County code enforcement complaints show complaints about paneling detaching from the side of the building and falling to the ground in 2020, 2019, 2018 and in 2007.
In July 2019, one commenter wrote: “aggregate paneling falling off 7 story building 600 Reisterstown Road. Many already fallen, many more detached, hanging and waiting to fall.”
That year, the county issued a citation for the building, ordering the owner to remove or repair the loose paneling on the facade. They complied, said Matthew Gawel, the county’s chief building inspector.
Gawel said his team responded in 2018 to reports of mold in the parking garage.
When inspectors returned this year, they found visible structural problems, Gawel said. Fire marshals initially flagged the building because demolition work was occurring inside without the proper permits, creating a fire hazard, he said. Officials have not provided an update on when the building might be able to reopen.
Baltimore County Councilman Izzy Patoka, who represents Pikesville, said he had concerns about the building, too.
“That was causing a great deal of concern to me as the councilman for the district, to have a building that’s coming apart in the heart of our commercial area,” said Patoka, adding that he’d hoped the owner would have moved more quickly on the improvements.
When Beth Rheingold started her job three years ago as president and CEO of the Pikesville-Owings Mills Regional Chamber of Commerce, the building was already on her group’s radar.
“When I came into the chamber, we identified it as a building that we would like to see renovated and upgraded,” Rheingold said. “The building is kind of an eyesore. It’s very run-down looking. And so, you know, that’s why we were really hopeful that renovations would move forward.”
Rheingold said she was getting ready to check in with the county about the redesign plans when she started hearing about the building’s closure.
She’s hopeful the building’s owner will move forward with the renovation, and possibly make use of grants from the chamber and the county to improve the building’s facade.
“It’s a shame,” she said, “because all these small businesses are losing income as a result of this issue with the structure being unsafe.”