Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sagamore Development: What Else Can you Do?

By now we've all seen the wonderful Master Plan Kevin Plank's Development Wing known as Sagamore Development has come up with to revitalize Port Covington. Now that the Wal-Mart has closed, it has become that much easier to bring this plan to fruition. As we speak, the finishing touches are being made on the IT and Accounting Center for Under Armour in the building that housed once housed a Sam's Club.
Given how much of a lost cause Port Covington had been and now all of the excitement that is being stirred up by its eventual status as the "Gateway to the City" or a "Greener Inner Harbor" or the "return of manufacturing Jobs to the City", it makes think what else Sagamore Development can do. There are several beleaguered and stalled developments in part of the City that by all rights, should have improved many times over. In some cases, the biggest obstacle these areas face is the lack of staying power on the part of the developers. Given the tremendous growth of Under Armour and the coming growth that redeveloping Port Covington will generate, Sagamore can and should begin looking elsewhere in the City to make a mark. But Where?
The first place is quite obvious; The Super Block. Where else in Downtown have there been more false starts and forks in the road? Originally, this was supposed to be a complete tear down and rebuild from scratch. Then Historic Preservationists saw the beautiful architecture in these decaying buildings and opted to safe them. That created another problem. Very few Retailers want to sign a lease in an old space not designed for their needs. Indeed, the super block spaces are long and narrow for the most part and the required investment to modernize these old buildings staggering to say the least.
Over the years, the super block has seen many developers and investors show interest in it. Each time however, something has forced them to pull out (whether it be lack of finances or their plans not meeting the City's expectations for historic preservationists) thereby leaving the buildings to further decay and rot. This is why I want Sagamore Development to take the financing portion at the very least. This project needs deep pockets to hold on to the land while plans are being finalized as well as to take on the roll of demolishing the back of these buildings and stripping them down only to their front facades to keep their historical integrity intact. This will also allow the insides of the buildings to be built straight to the specifications of Retailers who could then be lured into leasing space at Super Block.
Now we come to Lexington Market. Although Lexington Market itself is receiving a $2 Million renovation, its surroundings could use a shot in the arm. The paring garage across Paca St. from Lexington Market was supposed to be redeveloped as a Apartment and Condo high rises with a few town homes as well. The parking garage and therefore the project, was to be located between Paca St, Greene St. Lexington St., and Saratoga St. The bold project, known as "The Residences at Lexington Market" despite having my support, was not meant to be. Like many other redevelopment projects was shelved due to the recession and never heard from again. 
What Lexington Market suffers from is a lack of Residences near by. To create a true Downtown Neighborhood, there must be a certain mix between Residential, Retail, and Commercial. Ironically a few blocks east on Howard St., it suffers from lack of Retail and a plethora of Residences. I think Sagamore Development can be a big help in redeveloping that same parking garage (the plans can be modified) as well a block south of the Market; between Lexington St., Eutaw St., Paca St., and Fayette St. This will be a similar to mid to high rise Apartment/Condo building that will help introduce a Residential component to Lexington Market which should help the area turn a corner which is something that the area has been trying to do.     
Given that David S. Brown Enterprises has taken on the redevelopment of the vacant Social Security headquarters, that gives Sagamore Development on less job to take on. But worry not, I still have one more project that's perfect for Sagamore; State Center. Given the fact that the State of Maryland has all but walked a away from massive redevelopment project and is original partner, Streuver Brothers, Eccles, and Rouse went bankrupt, this project needs fresh capital in order to jump start it.
I think the next logical step for Sagamore Development is to revive State Center. First off they need to renovate and/or rebuild the decaying State Offices that are sitting on a portion of the site. Then, they need to wait and see what the market dictates their next step is. I think a big blow for this project was when it was scaled back not to include McCulloh Homes. The decaying public housing project is just next door to State Center and suffers from crime, drugs, and increasingly poor living conditions. A high end project such as State Center would prefer not to have that as their Neighbors. 
So in addition to the current parcels of land, State Center should once again include McCulloh Homes. The Market might not be ready right away for such a huge influx of new mixed use coming down the pipeline. As a result, Sagamore needs to treat this as a long term investment. The problem with long term investments is that paying large taxes on vacant land can quite easily bankrupt a company. This is why we need a development firm such as Sagamore Development that's making money on Port Covington in the meantime to help finance the land of State Center until the market readies itself for redevelopment.    
Given Sagamore Development's big splash onto the scene by redeveloping Port Covington, it begs the question by struggling areas of the City; What Else Can you Do?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Poppleton: Public Housing Disperse!

My previous article was supposed to address Poppleton's public housing and poverty concentration more, but it went in a different direction and I'm fine with that. However, I still want to address public housing and how such a large concentration of it can derail all the redevelopment plans elsewhere throughout Poppleton. What follows is a plan to de-concentrate Poppleton's public housing through redevelopment and re-purposing by while adding more public housing for Seniors.
There are currently two public housing developments located in Poppleton. First is the aging Poe Homes while the other is the Townes at the Terraces or simply "Terraces" This deep concentration of poverty will no doubt be an obstacle to redeveloping the rest of Poppleton and luring employees of the Biotech Park to spend more time there such as patronizing businesses and taking walks around the Community during lunch.
Now "Terraces" is technically a mixed income development. However, the vast majority of the homes there are still public housing. Couple that with Poe Homes, it becomes clear that the mix of income in not only these two developments needs to bee broadened, but Poppleton as a whole does too. Luckily the developers who are redeveloping the rest of Poppleton share that vision and are providing affordable housing as well as Market Rate.
Due to its age, Poe Homes will have to be torn down and redeveloped. Although other cities have rehabbed and reused public housing buildings once they've closed, most of Baltimore's public housing developments look the same and I don't think it would be wise to spend all that money getting the buildings up to modern standards when there's no guarantee that these buildings are sell-able. Also the Senior component would require a lot of modifications for ADA compliance. 
So with that, Poe Homes should be redeveloped and replaced with new construction with a mix of incomes and housing types so it can fit in seamlessly with the rest of Poppleton. The redeveloped Poe Homes which will not be named Poe Homes, will feature Apartments, Condos, and Town Homes (with and without garages) and will be Public Housing, Public Housing for Seniors, Subsidized Home Ownership, Market Rate Rentals, and Market Rate Home Ownership all overlooking a new Community Park.   
Example of Market Rate Rentals
The Market Rate Rentals will be on the western edge of Poe Homes on Amity St. (the Poe House will be spared) Amity St. will be the back of both Metro West and the new Poe Homes as the fronts will face Schroeder St. and the new Center Courtyard respectively. 

 The northern edge of the new Poe Homes will be on Saratoga St featurong Subsidized Home Ownership Town Homes. These will be two rows deep with frontage on Saratoga St. along with the Courtyard while sharing a common alley driveway to access the two car garage that comes standard with each home. 
Between the Church on Saratoga St. and its intersection with Fremont Avenue, there will be a row of public housing town homes. These will not have garages as they will have 4-5 bedrooms to accommodate large families. Along Fremont Avenue will be a mid-rise public housing Senior Building whose facade matches the one across the street at the Terraces development. 

Example of Market Rate Condos

Then finally along the southern edge of Poe Homes on Lexington St. will be a Condo Building that's market rate home ownership. Then finally the piece de resistance; the Courtyard. It will feature a playground, multi-use field, and an outdoor pool with a volley pit and a barbecue pit for Community cook outs.
Next we come to the Terraces. Although they are newer, lots of repairs and upgrades will have to be made before the uses of them are diversified. Like the new Poe Homes, the re-purposed Terraces will feature the same mixes of income although the Terraces won't feature any Condos and Apartments will be Seniors only. The re-purposed Terraces will be renovated inside and out to keep them looking brand new and attract new Residents. 
The lay out and the housing options of the Terraces will be as follows. The southeastern corner bordered by Fremont Avenue, Lexington St, MLK Boulevard, and Fayette St. will be Market Rate Home Ownership. This will help the Biotech Park and the newly rehabbed/rebuilt Poppleton Place Apartments nearby have a broader mix of housing bordering it. The largest block of the Terraces will be Market Rate Rentals bordered by MLK Boulevard, Lexington St., Fremont Avenue and Saratoga St. The Senior Building in this block will remain so and will remian public housing as well. The swath of vacant land in this block will play host to a second public housing Senior Building with Lexington St. Frontage. The remainder of this land will be a Community Park not unlike that I have proposed for the new Poe Homes.
In the northwestern corner of The Terraces bordered by Poppleton St, Mulberry St., Fremont Avenue, and Saratoga St. will be subsidized Home Ownership. Across the street on Saratoga St., the section of the new Poe Homes will also be subsidized Home Ownership. I want to create a "Home Ownership Opportunity Zone" along Saratoga St. to stabilize this section of Poppleton and Residents new and old recognize the dream of Home Ownership. Finally, the northeastern section of the Terraces bordered by Fremont Avenue, Mulberry St. MLK Boulevard, and Saratoga St. will remain Public Housing. This section of the Neighborhood is located the closest to vital services such as the Rite Aid Pharmacy and the Office Building containing Doctors Offices and a Credit Union within a very short walk of the public housing units.
I'm not against Public Housing, but I do know that throughout history, the concentration of poverty that too many public housing units create tends to be responsible for a lot of the crime, drugs, and urban decay that strangles the life from these Neighborhoods. If you're looking at a Neighborhood like Poppleton, a Neighborhood that is desperately trying for a rebirth, it's time to disperse the large concentration of public housing.