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Baltimore Center Stage Renovation

Baltimore, MD
General Contractor: Whiting-Turner Construction Co.
Architect: Cho Benn Holbeck & Associates, Inc.
Engineer: James Posey Associates
Contract Amount: $4,738,000
Start Date: 1/4/2016
Completion Date:  1/2/2017


Baltimore Center Stage is a regional professional performing arts institution located in Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon Cultural Arts District. Established in 1963 and named the State Theater of Maryland in 1978, Baltimore Center Stage’s two theaters are housed in a historic 1800’s structure which underwent this extensive renovation in 2016.

As part of that renovation team, Shapiro & Duncan was contracted to provide and install new chilled and heating hot water systems as well as the new plumbing system. Included in the scope of work was a new two-floor addition in the rear of the building added on top of two existing floors. This addition provides not only more space for the actors, but also the rooftop space on which our new equipment would be set.

First, all of the old equipment would have to be removed. Then the new equipment would have to be installed within the tight confines of a centuries-old building.

With limited space in the ceiling, we knew coordination with the other trades would be extremely important in finding the right fit for our mechanical and plumbing systems. Mechanical spaces and clearances would have to be measured – and, as it turned out, re-measured when spatial oddities were discovered on site. Meanwhile, our field team would have to deal with additional space constraints created by a narrow existing stairwell to the basement mechanical room, plus a narrow alley in the rear of the building that restricted rigging operations.


Our mechanical and plumbing solution began with our Virtual Design Coordination (VDC) Department. Using our field team’s onsite measurements, the VDC team created coordination documents from scratch using our state-of-the-art building information modeling (BIM) system. Those BIM outputs were supplemented with coordination documents produced by our electrical, sheet metal and fire/sprinkler subcontractors.

Guided by the coordination documents, piping assemblies and related components were prefabricated at our 51,000-square-foot fabrication facility in Landover, Md. In total, prefabbed assemblies were needed to connect:

  • One chiller;
  • Four air handling units;
  • Two boilers;
  • Two hot water pumps;
  • Two chilled water pumps;
  • 10 heat pumps;
  • One Daikin variable refrigerant flow system throughout the building; and
  • New plumbing system consisting of new bathroom fixtures, water heaters and sump pump systems.

Our field team, was another big part of the solution. As mentioned above, in several instances our installation technicians found that pre-fabbed piping assemblies would not fit due to unforeseen spatial quirks in the structure. Fortunately, our field people were able to reconfigure these assemblies on the site, or send new measurements back to our fabrication shop where the assemblies were quickly redone.

Our onsite team was also able to overcome two big installation obstacles. The first was the narrow basement stairwell, which was the only way to get the two new boilers into the mechanical room. After a subcontractor removed the stairwell, our field personnel disassembled both boilers and moved them piece-by-piece into the basement mechanical room. Meanwhile, up on the roof, where the chiller, air handlers and heat pumps had to be rigged by crane, special coordination with our rigging subcontractor was needed to deal with the confines of a tight alley, power lines, close-by residential homes and the need for road closures. As it turned out, most of the rooftop rigging was done during weekends.


Shapiro & Duncan has a distinguished track record of successful mechanical system renovation projects in historic buildings. Baltimore Center Stage is no exception. Not only was installation completed on time, but in the process our team was able to maintain the structural integrity of this landmark structure. In fact, work in the lower Pearlstone Theatre was actually finished in October 2016, more than two months ahead of schedule, so that this stage could be used while construction was being finished in other areas of the building. Despite sometimes surprising conditions, it is no surprise that Shapiro & Duncan was able to resolve every challenge and do things the right way for the owner.