3502 Woodbrook Avenue Profile

3504 Woodbrook Avenue interior after renovation.
3504 Woodbrook Avenue interior after renovation. Photos courtesy of Borna Ghaffarian.

3502 Woodbrook Avenue

3502 Woodbrook Avenue instantly welcomes visitors with the fresh, serene scent and visual charm of its recycled wood panel walls and accents. This is thanks to the artistry of Borna Ghaffarian, who transformed the former Baltimore vacant into a nature-inspired oasis.

3502 Woodbrook Avenue before and after exterior photos. To the left is a vacant bulting with boarded windows. The right shows the building's renovation.
3502 Woodbrook Avenue before and after exterior photos.

Before 3502 Woodbrook was a warm, Zen-filled home, it was a hoarder house. It later became a hollow shell after an electrical fire caused the third floor to collapse into the basement. Despite the damage of the Parkview/Woodbrook rowhome, Ghaffarian purchased the property at a One House At A Time auction. Its location, directly between Druid Hill Park and Mondawmin Mall, and its rare extra-wide size (2,903 sq ft.) inspired his vision for the property’s potential. “I was enchanted by [Baltimore] buildings and history,” says Ghaffarian. “It also happens to be a really great place to transition into real estate. The returns are good. And it’s kind of exciting because I get a chance to work with beautiful architecture already in a mature setting.”

As the son of two architects, Ghaffarian says he’s been around the business of building and design his entire life. He achieved a master’s in real estate and renovated some properties in the Baltimore area. “Through that process, I raised capital to essentially get more experience in construction, to try new things. Then I got the chance to think outside the box,” Ghaffarian says about his gradual introduction to vacant building rehabilitation. “[3502 Woodbrook] was truly the first time that I have done this scale of construction. So, it was really a great learning experience.”

"I could see a crack opening into the corner of the building like a zipper."

3502 Woodbrook avenue interior before vacant building renovation.
3502 Woodbrook Avenue interior before renovation.

Part of the learning process was facing the hefty challenges vacant buildings pose. The property is in a transitioning neighborhood and, at the time, stood between two vacants. Ghaffarian says his crew had to do “major surgery” on the back wall, which started to collapse because a neighboring house lacked proper support. “I could see a crack opening into the corner of the building like a zipper,” says Ghaffarian. He mentions that he could shake the whole wall with his hands. Another major challenge was dealing with the economics of a neighborhood in the process of revitalization. He says some market players in the area are looking to create subsidized housing and care homes while others, like him, are interested in bringing single-family homeownership to the neighborhood. 3502 Woodbrook is currently listed for purchase at $525,000. “It will take time for the comps to build up. So, it’s really kind of a race as far as what the shape of the neighborhood will be,” says Ghaffarian. “I thought that to maintain diversity and bring some fresh energy to the neighborhood that I would recreate a single-family house akin to the grandeur of what the neighborhood used to be.” 

The most crucial element in achieving this grandeur was the design. Ghaffarian took a thoughtful approach by first conducting a demographic study. He found that smaller households were more likely to purchase in the area. So, the final design accommodated lower occupancy features as well as market demands for open space floorplans. “I think the main aspect of the design is that I wanted to be more conscious about the building as a whole,” says Ghaffarian. “So, I considered spirituality, functionality. I considered what it would be like to live there and what I would need in a house in that area.”

Full floor suite on third floor of the renovated rowhome.
Full floor suite on the third floor.

Ghaffarian, who has an art background, says he collaborated with local Baltimore artists on the design. He says the style inspiration derived from nature and eco-consciousness. This is evident in the amount of reclaimed wood throughout the home: wood trim, paneling, doors, floors, beams, decks, shelving, etc. He says achieving an airy, tranquil space also came from adding built-in elements to require less furniture. Every room is equipped with a full closeting system and built-in shelving. The bedrooms even have dressers built into the walls.

"I think the market has room for different kinds of products and should not be shoe-horned into just grayscale flip houses."

The future buyer is not only saved from having to move in storage furniture, but furniture in general if they wish. Ghaffarian says the staging furniture can be included in the sale. This is an exciting offer considering the one-of-a-kind pieces included. There are side tables in the third-floor suite that Ghaffarian made from shipping crates. He also made the non-stationary kitchen island from bowling alley floorboards. “Sometimes I find materials and I think about how I can incorporate them,” says Ghaffarian. “In the case of the bowling alley wood, I got lucky and found it at exactly the right time where I was making an island. But oftentimes I just find things I really appreciate, and I’ll hold onto them so I can find a place to give them a home.” He says the recycled materials used throughout the home are his favorite part of the completed project. All reclaimed materials are from Baltimore’s Second Chance

Basement area with built-in shelving and kitchenette.
Basement lounge area with kitchenette.

Ghaffarian repeatedly describes this project as a “labor of love” and believes that providing a quality product is important. “It’s what the people really want,” he says. “Overall, it’s a bit of a risk. But I think the market has room for different kinds of products and should not be shoe-horned into just grayscale flip houses.” Other features that represent the quality of the four bed, three-and-a-half bath home include the finished basement with a kitchenette and guest room, hardwood floors with an easy to care for oil finish, acid washed exposed brick walls, a front balcony, a back deck, a back patio made with reclaimed stone, EV charging stations, and a double-car parking pad that required the removal of ten tons of dirt and two mature trees. 

"The creative process is really important, a chance to be part of the community."

Ghaffarian says the completed project received positive feedback from the local community groups, residents, religious institutions, and businesses who all support investment in the neighborhood. And not only is the neighborhood transformation apparent with 3502 Woodbrook Avenue’s renovation, but also with one of its direct neighbors. 3504 Woodbrook Avenue, another former receivership property, is also a beautifully rehabbed home ready for new occupants. Looking around, Ghaffarian says there’s a notable difference in the neighborhood from when he started and has confidence in its further growth.

Though he says he’s still in the process of figuring out the economics of vacant building development, Ghaffarian certainly wants to rebuild more vacants in the future. He says he appreciates the receivership process as an opportunity to acquire properties where he can start from scratch. “I turned something that was a nuisance into somebody’s home,” says Ghaffarian. “The creative process is really important, a chance to be part of the community. I love what I do, and I want to continue to be a part of Baltimore’s ongoing revival.”


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