A Camden to call home

Townhouses: There'll soon be another Camden -- a moderately priced townhouse community -- within walking distance of the downtown sports complex.

May 16, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

Most Marylanders are familiar with the Camden Yards sports complex, historic Camden train station, and the Camden Club restaurant.

Soon they'll be hearing about Camden Crossing, an $18 million community that will put 144 townhouses within walking distance of Baltimore's downtown stadiums.

The city of Baltimore selected MetroVentures/USA of Columbia last year to develop Camden Crossing on the former Koppers Co. property, an 8-acre parcel near the B & O Railroad Museum.

MetroVentures has since refined its designs and will launch its marketing campaign this month when it takes part in the city's Homebuying Fair and Trolley Tour of southwest Baltimore neighborhoods. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, starting at Violetville Elementary School, 1207 Pine Heights Ave. in West Baltimore.

Bounded by McHenry, Scott, Poppleton, and Clifford streets, the Camden Crossing property once belonged to the Koppers metalworks company, a construction, chemical and engineering products business. Vacated in 1986, the property became an eyesore and later was acquired for redevelopment by the city.

MetroVentures was selected to develop the property after a team headed by the Ryland Group Inc. and Otis Warren Development abandoned plans last year to build a community called Barre Station there. MetroVentures' participation in the home-buying fair is an indication that it is moving ahead with plans to start construction of the townhouses later this year.

"This is the largest piece of land available for residential construction near downtown Baltimore," said Suzanne Graham, senior project manager for MetroVentures.

"It's a site that has tremendous locational benefits to buyers," and its development "will have very positive impact on the surrounding area," she said.

Graham said the builders are aiming to create an affordable urban neighborhood that will provide an alternative to higher-priced housing in Federal Hill and Fells Point, but will be just as close to the restaurants, attractions and businesses downtown. She said they chose the name Camden Crossing to underscore the community's proximity to the stadiums and the rest of downtown and to show that a new team is involved in the development.

"We wanted to send the message that this is a whole new project, a new team, a new day," she said. "It's the same site, but a different approach."

The development team also wanted a name that provided a strong local identity, she said. "Camden alludes to the area's proximity to Camden Yards, and Crossing alludes to the B & O Railroad Museum" and train crossings.

People already park in the area during games at Camden Yards, she noted. "That tells you how close it is. You'll be able to walk to a game. It's a great investment."

Plans have support from representatives of the Washington Village/Pigtown Neighborhood Planning Council. "Good things are happening in Washington Village, and we are beginning to feel a sense of hope and promise in this community," said Chairman Joseph Brown Jr.

Top priority

Development of the Koppers site has been the "No. 1 priority" of the council's land-use plan, Brown said. "We are pleased to see the evolution of the MetroVentures proposal and look forward to working with them as it is developed further. We hope that, to the extent possible, this project can be put on a `fast track' and the site developed as quickly as possible."

Graham said company officials are eager to start marketing the homes this spring because they want to take advantage of the strong economy and keen interest from prospective buyers.

"Sales are soaring [in the city], and we want to be able to be able to capture this wave" of buyers, she said.

Camden Crossing is aimed at young professionals and others who work downtown and want to live there. Many are likely to be renters, ages 30 to 40, who may be employed by city-based companies or institutions such as the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland Medical Center; and Baltimore City.

Graham said Camden Crossing will be more moderately priced than some of the market-rate housing close to downtown, such as luxury townhouses planned for the HarborView community along Key Highway.

Prices at Camden Crossing begin at $115,000 for a three-story townhouse with 1,800 square feet of living space and a garage. Each house has three bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms. Monthly mortgage payments will be about $800 to $1,000. The annual household income needed to purchase one of the homes is about $42,000.

Prices of the 76 townhouses planned for HarborView, by contrast, are expected to range from about $300,000 to $600,000. Starting prices of the 20 townhouses under construction along Covington Street in South Baltimore range from $225,000 to about $235,000.

"This is going to be an alternative to Federal Hill and Fells Point," Graham said. "That's our goal -- to build an alternative to those high-end neighborhoods."

`High-value' area

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