Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Fast forward to August 2014 and a new large institution has opened on Russell St; The Horseshoe Casino. Unlike M&T Bank Stadium this is meant to attract crowds all day every day and even into the night. This gives people on Russell St. the opportunity to explore the area around the Casino instead of just speeding by it as has been the case. Well there's nothing really there to explore along Russell St. besides the Casino itself and it doesn't have any outward facing Restaurants or Retail of any kind. All Russell St. has is Gas Stations, Storage Facilities, a Holiday Inn Express, and lots of aging industrial properties with varying degrees of occupancy. I'm proposing to turn the Russell St. Corridor into a mixed use haven anchored by the Casino. So let the gentrification of Russell St. begin!
The opportunity for Waterfront Development along the Middle Branch was largely hindered by the construction of the Casino's parking garage. This is why I'm huge a proponent of underground parking garages. Since that won't be happening we'll have to deal with the hand we were given. As luck would have it there is a parking lot at the corner of Warner St. and Stockholm St. that can be turned into a mid rise Apartment/Condo building that directly overlooks the Middle Branch as well as the Casino, the Stadium, and the Gwynns Falls Trail.
I'm not big on either of those Public Storage Buildings that flank . I think they could be put to more productive use further in the Carroll Camden Industrial Park. In their places would be more mid rise Apartment/Condo buildings with ground floor Retail wrapped around a garage. I would like to emphasize affordability on these projects to make the area a magnet for Casino Workers. The block that contains the Game Day Warehouse would be demolished except for the facade of the Game Day Warehouse where you guessed it! More Apartments and Condos would go. This time they'll be loft style. Ground Floor Retail can be found along Alluvion and Warner St.
On the north side of the train tracks, I'm proposing a broader mix of uses. On the north side east of Russell St. I'm proposing tearing down the dilapidated vacant industrial buildings in favor of parking garages. I'm not a fan of parking garages especially exposed ones like I'm putting here but the Stadiums will lose two lots to development I'm proposing so I'd like them to regain those spaces and perhaps more.
There are two parking lots here that can be developed as mid rise Office Buildings both with Ostend St. frontage. Whether or not there's ground floor Retail will depend on the demand for it. The parking garage for the building that will be built on Lot "O" will face the Railroad Tracks. The Paradox night club will be redeveloped as a higher end Hotel. A new Paradox Club will be integrated with the Hotel with separate entrances. In keeping with the theme of the two Offices Buildings, the Hotel/Paradox Night Club will have Ostend St. frontage.
Friday, June 26, 2015
Oh, you want to drive to South Baltimore? You live in one of South Baltimore's classic row homes? So how and where do you park? This is one of the parts of the City that has been drawing young people from the suburbs as well as DC due to its relative affordability. This demographic has a high number of people who have ditched their cars. And why not? Urban living when done right, there is no need for a car. All one has to do is hop on a bus or rail transit of some sort if your destination isn't within a short walk from home or work.
Sadly South Baltimore is one of the parts of the City where a car is needed. This is also one of the oldest parts of the City so streets are only barely able to support two way traffic with on-street parking and those are the "wide" roads. This has created a problem; There's nowhere to park in South Baltimore. That's why in the first paragraph when I was singing South Baltimore's praises, I said take the Light Rail and/or the Charm City Circulator to avoid parking here. If you do live here or decide to bring your into South Baltimore, you will no doubt spend an extra 10-15 minutes circling the blocks surrounding your destination hoping to find a parking spot that isn't a driveway or doesn't have a fire hydrant in front of it. Keep in mind once you do find that miracle parking spot that's too good to be true, you're probably stealing from the true Resident of the Row Home you parked in front of.
Like I said in the beginning, South Baltimore is an up and coming Neighborhood. What does that mean? It means that in addition to population growth from Residents rehabbing existing row homes and vacant industrial uses turned into Residences, new construction is going up at a break neck pace. Fortunately for those renting or buying new construction you most likely can bypass the parking woes since most new Apartments come with a parking garage with reserved parking. The same is with new Town Homes in South Baltimore as they are usually three or four stories tall and are much wider than their old row house counterparts, they have a driveways with either a one or two car garage. If it's a Community of new Town Homes it may even be gated.
Well it's obvious that the solution is more parking garages. Granted these structures are ugly and take away from the historic nature and welcoming environment all communities strive to achieve. South Baltimore is no exception. If one takes a look at the two recent mid-rise Apartment buildings that were just built along Wells St. near Charles St., don't appear to have an unsightly garage attached to them. Well that's what they want you to think. These buildings do in fact have their own garages but their buildings cover them up. In high density Apartment buildings these days, the parking garage is in the center of the structure much like a pool and outdoor gathering space does as well. This shields Residents of these buildings from South Baltimore's parking woes, but what about everyone else?
We can't expand the parking garages on the two new Wells St. buildings because they've been completed but there are several new Apartment buildings coming down the pipeline that can help address these problems. Even better news, they're not all concentrated in one place. They're spread throughout South Baltimore so a new parking garage could be near you. These proposed garages have enough spaces for their future Residents and perhaps a few extra spaces. If they were to add a couple of levels to these garages for visitors and nearby Residents, that would be a huge step in the right direction by lessening the parking woes.
First there's Stadium Square. This new multi building mixed development is located in the Sharp-Leadenhall Neighborhood will be built along the blocks of Race St. and Leadenhall St. between Hamburg St. and Ostend St. that are currently dead industrial zones. Plans for two of the buildings have come one is an Apartment Building with ground floor Retail. The Second Buildings is an Office Building (also with ground floor Retail) which will address the demand for Office Space in the area. Stadium Square is billed as a Tech Incubator for Baltimore. Both of these buildings and other buildings to come will have parking garages wrapped around them. If both buildings expanded their garages underground, then parking in this section of South Baltimore will become much easier.
Next there's a proposed Apartment Building where the currently vacant University of Maryland Specialty sits on S, Charles St. in Otterbein. Although the currently peaceful Neighborhood may feel threatened by this large new building and the life it will bring to it, current Residents can rest assure that ground floor Retail is not planned for this building as well as the fact that it will have a parking garage wrapped around which I'm also proposing to have extra spaces reserved in the area although this area isn't as effected by parking woes than as other parts are.
Next there's Anthem House. Located at the entrance to Locust Point, this nine story ultra luxury Apartment Building may not need to have additional parking due to the fact that it's right near lots of other parking garages in McHenry Row and there's surface level parking in Southside Shopping Center both directly across the street from the Anthem House site. Still, I would add the additional spaces anyway just in case somebody intends on taking a westward walk along Fort Ave. where the parking becomes much tighter.
Perhaps the most crucial development proposal is the redevelopment of the Cross St. Market. Located in the heart of Federal Hill boutique Retail has popped up all over this popular destination. There is a stand alone parking garage next to the market but I would like to see more parking. My preference would be under-ground parking just beneath the redeveloped Market so as not further disturb the historic nature of the Community.
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Disclaimer!!!!! I had roughly composed this post BEFORE Kevin Plank took interest in Port Covington. I had enough Material to publish it as is.
Do you ever drive through the desolate streets of Port Covington and wonder what went wrong? I have googled earthed it many times and wondered the same thing. Finally I made it out there to take pictures and I wondered what went wrong. This was supposed to be a Mecca for Suburban Style Big Box Retail in the City that was previously unknown to City Residents. The Buildings and infrastructure of Downtown's Westside couldn't and wouldn't support this so Port Covington was hand-picked successor of Baltimore's Retail Future. Yet here we are today.
Port Covington is located at the southern edge of the South Baltimore Peninsula. Before the construction of I-95, this once industrial area was integrated to rapidly gentrifying Neighborhoods of South Baltimore north of the I-95 overpasses. Of course these large intrusive overpasses created a barrier between South Baltimore and Port Covington and the continuing decline of industry only increased the bleak future of the area. At this point in time South Baltimore itself was in decline with exception of Federal Hill and Otterbein.
In the early 2000s, it became obvious that the City needed to be home to the same type of suburban big box Retail that City Dwellers were going to in the County for to keep those tax dollars here in the City and lure more Residents in due to the convenience of big box Retail that's in the City. It also became obvious that the Westside of Downtown, Baltimore's historic Retail Mecca doesn't have the parking capacity, infrastructure, or the type of buildings that are required to host these large chain stores.
Meanwhile the Walton Family (owners of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club) have noticed the increase in population surrounding Downtown and they wanted to get in on it. They also noticed the lack of competition as their main competitors K-Mart and Target were nowhere to be found in Downtown Baltimore or anywhere near it. Now all they had to do was find a site, build on it, and they would be ready to roll and smaller suburban chain stores such as Restaurants or medium sized box stores were sure to follow.
The question now became where can a vacant land parcel that's large enough for a big box center AND is very close to Downtown? At the time the best and perhaps only answer was Port Covington. Although there are a few active uses going on in Port Covington, there was also lots of vacant land especially the land directly overlooking the Middle Branch. At this point, the idea of building luxury Apartments along the shores of the Middle Branch was still a-ways away.
Long story short WalMart and Sams Club built their stores in Port Covington. No other businesses ever followed suit. WalMart is still open but Sams Club(pictured above) had gone out of business years ago. Although it's close to Downtown it's not convenient to I-95 traffic, Cherry Hill, Brooklyn, or any other Neighborhood for that matter. This little island of failed would-be big boxed Retail just exists on mostly in a world of its own. One lesson painful lesson was learned from this little experience; Baltimore just can't support Big Box Retail.
Fast forward to 2013 and another waterfront Community proved the above statement wrong. Canton Crossing (pictured above) opened a big box Shopping Center in (you guessed it) Canton. Canton Crossing comes with a Target, Harris Teeter, Michaels, Old Navy, DSW Shoe Wharehouse, and Five Below. Not to mention a generous selection of Restaurants including Baltimore City's first Chick-Fillet. This time the Center was built in the middle of a densely packed Row House Neighborhood filled with new Apartments, Condos, and Town Homes with many more on the way. In short, Canton Crossing has a critical mass of consumers located within walking distance.
Two lessons were learned from Canton Crossing that could be transferred Port Covington. The first is that Baltimore City CAN in fact support Big Box Retail but that sight must be accessible and on the grid so to speak. The second lesson is that it must be near a critical mass of Residences and Offices who will automatically support these stores. These are both things that Canton Crossing has and Port Covington lacks.
So, in staying true to the title of this post, how can we revive Port Covington and the Big Box Center that has died before our eyes? To answer that I suggest we would look at the more successful Canton Crossing. Port Covington simply needs a critical mass of Residences and Offices surrounding it. Now what is surrounding the ill-fated Center? Industry. It's no secret that industry is on the decline and has been for quite some time now. It might not be a bad idea to look at the industrial area west of the Center to see full the space is.
Should this space become available, it would be perfect to redevelop as a mixed waterfront enclave not unlike Inner Harbor East and the soon to be built Harbor Point. Remember this is prime waterfront property granted it's the Middle Branch rather than the Inner Harbor but the Middle Branch is bound to be a magnet for those looking to buy waterfront after the Inner Harbor is built out. There's also the sad truth that the Baltimore Sun may not need a distribution plant as large as the one in Port Covington. If that closes, it can be torn down and redeveloped with Town Homes in a traditional urban grid fashion.
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Edmondson Village wasn't always like it is today. It opened in 1947 as an upscale Shopping Center for the fast growing Edmondson Avenue corridor. It originally boasted tenants such as Hoschild Kohn, Hess Shoes, a Movie Theater, and eventually a Bowling Alley among many others. The Shopping Center was deemed as one of the first suburban Shopping Centers in the region. Even as blockbusting completely change the population from almost all White to almost all black in less than a decade, the Shopping Center still retained a nice mix of tenants.
The biggest blow to the Center was and still is slumlords. One could make the argument that newer Shopping Centers just over the County Line were to blame but Edmondson Village and its surrounding Neighborhoods didn't experience population at nearly as high a rate as many in other parts of the City. There are also Shopping Centers throughout the City that despite losing large amounts of population, spent tens of millions of dollars renovations and modernizing their properties and have enjoyed a new lease on life such as Mondawmin Mall, Reisterstown Road Plaza, and the Rotunda which is currently undergoing redevelopment. There are also areas in the City where brand new suburban style Shopping Centers (more than Edmondson Village) have breathed new life into Neighborhoods with little to no Retail and perhaps may have curtailed further population loss. South-side Marketplace and Greenspring Tower Plaza come to mind.
So while all these other Shopping Centers were either being built or renovated, what happened to Edmondson Village? Very little. Perhaps some minor facade improvements were made over the years but other than that the Center looks almost identical to itself in its heyday. When I say almost I don't take into account the years of neglect it has suffered but how many 60+ year old Shopping Centers are successful today without major renovations or redevelopment? The original neglect of the Center started in the late 1970s when Harry Weinberg owned it. Although he would later become Baltimore Royalty post posthumously due to the generosity of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, he was actually a slumlord.
Although Edmondson Village changed hands from between the days of Harry Weinberg and the present day, Edmondson Village is once again owned by a slumlord. This time it's Carl Verstandig, owner of America's Realty Corp. Though they're not quite notorious for their lack of upkeep on their properties, they're beginning to make a name for themselves most famously in Columbia when they bought Long Reach Village Center and let it decay so bad that Howard County bought from them and will redevelop it themselves. They also own some low market strip centers in Glen Burnie that are also suffering from lack of upkeep. In addition they want to buy Owings Mills Mall, which if you thought couldn't get any worse, just America's Realty Corp buy it and prove you wrong. In fact, all of the upkeep (or lack there of) problems that are plaguing Edmondson Village are the fault of America's Realty Corp.
Now comes the hard part; actually turning Edmondson Village back into a shopping destination that draws people into the Neighborhood. First thing's first; America's Realty Corp. has to sell Edmondson Village to an experienced Retail Property Management/Leasing Agency that will make long term investments to the Center.In the short term, they must address all of the quality of life issues around the Center such as decaying structures, parking lot, and infrastructure. After that is done, the real planning comes into focus and the burning question will get answered; Is Edmondson Village relevant in its current form?
Like I had said before, Edmondson Village remains almost identical in layout to its 1947 self. In Baltimore, all of the successful Shopping Centers are either new construction or have gone through massive renovations that the majority of the original structure(s) have been replaced with new construction. In order for Edmonson Village to survive and thrive, some major changes to the lay out of the Center must happen despite its iconic status as a pioneer in suburban shopping centers.
When talking redevelopment one must look at the trends. In the case of Neighborhood Retail, these trends all point to one thing; mixed use. Recently completed mixed use projects in the City include Jefferson Square at Washington Hill and Twelve 09 N. Charles St. This works very well for the Retail component because the Residences and/or Offices above make for built in patronage for said Retail. On the same token, the Residences and/or Offices above will have the convenience of Retail offerings just a few floors below them. So does this translate into a total tear down for Edmondson Village? It does.
A compete tear down will also address infrastructure problems that are currently plaguing the Center. One of the main draws of the Center in its early days was that it has "acres of parking." which was a clear indicator of the suburban mindset that the original Architects of the Center were in. The mindset of mixed use is to built up not out. The now setback Center will be much closer to Edmondson Avenue. and will be more pedestrian oriented rather than automobile oriented. This will be all the more important with the upcoming construction of the Red Line which will have a stop at Edmondson Village. Speaking of automobiles, where they park if their parking lot is being taken away from them?
The answer to that is a parking garage. Not just any parking garage, a hidden one. A large portion of mixed use developments build a parking garage in the middle of the building site. The parking garage is also the same height as the building(s) it serves. The parking garage at Edmondson Village will have two different entrances; one for the Retail Tenants and Patrons, the other for Residents of the Apartments and Condos above. The structure(s) will be 4-6 stories high and will feature a courtyard pool and sundeck. It will feature a broad mix of incomes from Market Rate Home Ownership and Rentals to Low/Moderate Income Home Ownership and Rentals.
Now what will the new mix of Retail Tenants be? Well that would be up to the Community. Before and during redevelopment, surveys will be sent out to Residents of the following Communities; Edmondson Village, Rognel Heights, Hunting Ridge, Ten Hills, Westgate, Allendale, and Uplands (new and perspective Residents.) They will be asked what they would like to see at the new Center such as more of this, less of this and what type of safety improvements they would like to see as well and if they actually shop there. Chances are most of the Residents would like to see more sit down Restaurants, Banks, Coffee Shop, and fewer low end stores. My one suggestion for Edmondson Village would be to get a Farmer's Market for the area. The success of Farmer's Markets throughout Baltimore and the lack of fresh quality produce at affordable prices would prove a big hit anywhere in the City and Edmondson Village is no different.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Although such a project would be a huge boost to the City's economy and tax base as well as further population growth, there are simply too many other well funded large development projects across the City; first there's Inner Harbor East once H&S Bakery vacates its current Southeast Baltimore home, it will re-open several blocks for redevelopment. Harbor Point is moving forward quite nicely as well as are plans to build more Offices in Canton Crossing. Otterbein and Sharp Leadenhall are each receiving large redevelopment projects. There are also parcels slated for development in Harborview. Lets not forget that Downtown is redefining itself as something more than just Office Space. Office Buildings that are losing out to newer buildings are getting a new lease on life as Apartments and Condos. To add even more sting; State Center will probably get built before Westport.
So is Westport a lost cause? In the short term my answer is yes but in the long term, once the City has absorbed all the new development listed above, Westport's redevelopment may finally happen. The problem is, when I say that Westport will eventually happen, how far in the future could that happen? I'm projecting anywhere between 15 and 25 years before interest is renewed. No investor will have the patience to simply sit on that land while paying mortgages and taxes and not getting anything in return. In order to keep investors happy, they must at the very least break even on the land in the short term. The $1 Million or should I say $1 Billion question is; How?
Studies have shown that actually addressing homelessness is more cost effective than ignoring it. City and State Budgets have improved in areas where building small cottages for an area's homeless populations have been beneficial to everyone. Granted these cottages aren't anything fancy, they're small kit homes that Residents are afforded a place to sleep and be out of the elements and be safer than on the streets. Homeless Shelters which are already filled to capacity could deliver food to encampments of homeless cottages as can Restaurants who do so with "day old" food. These Cottages became popular after Hurricane Katrina when tens of thousands of New Orleans Residents lost their homes. New Orleans has dubbed them "Katrina Cottages."
So where would these small Cottages go? Surely throughout Baltimore there's an area where there's empty land that can hold several hundred if not more of these little Cottages Right? Given that the Westport Waterfront is currently completely vacant for the foreseeable future, it's a no brainier that this location would fit the bill perfectly. Although this plan benefits the Homeless population of Baltimore as well as the Taxpayers, how would this benefit current and future investors of the Westport Waterfront? The City, State, and Feds can team up and lease the land from the investors to cover the cost of whatever mortgages and taxes associated with the ownership of that land.
With Homeless population of Baltimore consolidated to one area, the underlying causes of homelessness can be addressed. Social Services can assist those living in the Cottages with services ranging from addiction counseling, physical healthcare, mental healthcare, school enrollment, needle exchange, and vocational training. I liken this to "Hamsterdam" which played out in Season 3 of the wire which saw West Baltimore's drug dealers and users brought to one secluded area and before being shutdown, began to help those in need. Although not every single homeless person in Baltimore can benefit from such services, I do believe that a large percentage of them can all Residents can at the very least be safer. This area will also be heavily Policed to ensure each Resident's safety.
Unfortunately, like all good things, this may come to an end at any time. Demand for Office Space, Retail, and Residences could begin to arise again after the completion of other large projects in and around Downtown and the Harbor even though the're completely built out. It would be at that point that the Westport Waterfront redevelopment will begin to have legs once again. Obviously, the investors in the project will want to get moving so they can see a return on their investment. This could spell disaster for for the Homeless population that has begun to heel.