Last housing at Cross Keys Final 16 units set to open next year at Rouse community


Nearly 35 years have passed since the late developer James W. Rouse broke ground for a mixed-use community in North Baltimore that he intended to be a model for urban living -- the Village of Cross Keys.

Next spring, another developer will begin writing the final chapter of Cross Keys when it starts construction of the last housing that can be constructed there.

Mark Building Co., a Columbia concern that has worked closely with the Rouse Co. but never before launched a development in Baltimore, unveiled plans yesterday to complete 16 "cluster houses" that will sell for about $300,000 each.

Slated for completion by late next year, the development will add $4.8 million worth of housing stock to the city tax rolls -- or about $184,300 in annual taxes.

And practically every house is sold.

"We've taken reservations on 14 of the 16 lots, and we have four people on the waiting list," said Lee Rosenberg, a consultant to Mark. "I wish my phone would stop ringing. I have to change my number."

Mark is headed by Larry Rosenberg, Lee's son. Both are highly respected builders who have completed a total of 3,000 residences in Maryland. This will be Mark's first multifamily development in Baltimore.

Lee Rosenberg, who retired as head of his building company in 1985, said he is particularly pleased with the response at Cross Keys because 10 of the 14 buyers will be moving to Baltimore from outside the city. He intends to buy one himself.

"It's bringing people from the counties back to the city," he said. "It shows that people want to come back into the city."

On the west side of Falls Road between Northern Parkway and Cold Spring Lane, the Village of Cross Keys is a 78-acre community built on the site of the Baltimore Country Club. Rouse launched it in 1962 as a prototype for Columbia.

The first resident moved in in 1964; the retail center opened a year later.

The new houses will bring to 688 the number of residences at Cross Keys.

The building site is a 4-acre parcel just north of the shopping center.

The Rouse Co., which developed Cross Keys, always planned to build housing on that tract. In 1990, it received City Council approval to build up to 30 townhouses, but construction was delayed because of the recession.

More recently, Rouse approached Mark about building on the property, and Mark suggested an alternative to the townhouses. Its project is ideal because it adds to the housing mix, said David E. Forester, vice president and senior development director for Rouse.

"We didn't feel that [townhouses] offered the market anything different," he said. "We were delighted that Lee and Larry could come up with another type and really upgrade the housing at Cross Keys."

The Rosenbergs said their houses are aimed at empty nesters -- couples with grown children who want to move to a secure community where homes are relatively maintenance free.

As designed by Donald B. Ratcliffe & Associates, with Jaime Fishman as lead architect, the three-bedroom houses will be 56 feet wide, with 3,200 square feet of living space, mostly on one level. Each will have a two-car garage and a master bedroom on the first level, as well as rooms that can be used for a home office, exercise room or study.

The exterior will be brick and glass, with shingle roofs.

Larry Rosenberg said he surveyed the market and found there isn't anything else like it in the city limits, in terms of the cluster arrangement and the amount of living space on one level.

Yet, that's what affluent empty nesters are looking for, he said.

"Empty nesters don't want to downsize," he said. "They want the same amount of space. They just want a new environment and a more secure environment."

Rouse still has land available south of the Cross Keys Inn for

commercial development, but this was the only land for residential development, Forester said.

Larry Rosenberg said his company has not selected a name for the community or the street leading to the houses, and plans to seek ideas from the buyers.

"We thought that would be something people ordinarily don't get to do," he said.

Pub Date: 9/27/96

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