CHESTERTOWN — Sultana Projects’ proposed educational center has gotten an OK from the Historic District Commission.

The HDC, at its Nov. 6 meeting, approved the designs for the Sultana center. The new building, to be erected on Cross Street next to the former Kent Printing offices, was designed by local architect Alex Castro, whose previous projects include Baltimore’s Visionary Arts Museum and the recently restored Senator Theatre.

Castro’s design incorporates architectural features not found anywhere else in Chestertown’s historic district, such as a glass exterior wall and folding glass “nana walls.” Photovoltaic solar panels, advanced insulation, creative water re-use, and state-of-the-art mechanical systems will result in a building with a minimal environmental footprint. When complete, the Sultana educational center is expected to be one of only two buildings on the Eastern Shore to receive the LEED Platinum certification – the highest given by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“This building has a unique mission and we wanted the design to reflect that mission,” said Patti Hegland, Sultana board chairwoman, in a news release. “Our goal with Alex was to create a building that is sensitive to Chestertown’s past but that was clearly a product of the present.”

The educational center will be adjacent to a pre-Civil War building that has served as a church, a school, a movie theater, a shirt factory, an armory and a pool hall. For more than 80 years, it was the office first of the Enterprise, then of the Kent County News. For several years, it has housed the offices of Maryland Heritage Properties, a real estate broker.

The vacant lot on which the new educational building will be sited was formerly occupied by a garage-like structure that housed printing equipment.

Drew McMullen, president of Sultana Projects, said in September that the new building would echo the general proportions of the existing building at the corner, but would not mimic its architectural style. That is in accordance with the Historic District guidelines, which state, “New construction should avoid the introduction of historic styles that are not commonly found in the District, and it should also avoid a false sense of history through the precise duplication of other historic buildings.”

In addition to housing classrooms and office space, the education center will have a wet lab, a fully equipped wood shop, a rigging loft and a work floor for boatbuilding and other hands-on projects. It is expected to allow Sultana Projects to double the number of students its educational programs serve.

Groundbreaking on the project is tentatively scheduled for fall 2014, with construction to be completed early in 2016.

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