Builders propose scenic housing

From rooftop gym, residents would look over Camden Yards

Sketches to be shown

City seeks tax breaks for $30 million Market Center West

November 09, 1999|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Talk about a gym with a view.

Developers are proposing to build a 20-story apartment tower in downtown Baltimore featuring a rooftop exercise complex with windows gazing out at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the glowing clock of the Bromo Seltzer Tower.

The Quadrangle Development Corp. of Washington, and Mendel Friedman of Baltimore plan to present sketches of the 300-unit Market Center West apartments to a city architectural review board Thursday.

The $30 million-plus project, which would replace a city-owned parking lot at Lombard and Howard streets, would fit with the city's strategy of reviving the west side of downtown by attracting hundreds of students and young professionals, said Edward M. Hord, designer of the project and principal of the Hord Coplan Macht architecture firm.

"Talk about a skybox," said Hord. "The rooftop will be a fantastic place to sit on a starry night or during a baseball game. It will have spectacular views."

As the University of Maryland, Baltimore expands by building a new law school and medical building, a total of 1,718 apartments are under construction or in the planning stages nearby in downtown Baltimore.

The city sent out requests last month for proposals from developers to convert the city-owned Bromo Seltzer Tower from offices into apartments.

A block north, A & R Development Corp. is nearing completion of a 151-unit apartment tower on Redwood Street.

"There is a national trend of young people wanting to move back into downtown areas, and we are seeing a real rise in demand for downtown apartments," said Tracy Durkin, director of the city's Downtown Housing Initiative and the Downtown Partnership business organization.

To help finance the Market Center West project, the city's housing department worked with City Council President Lawrence Bell III last night to submit legislation seeking 20 years of tax breaks.

"Creating more market-rate housing is one of the key components to revitalizing downtown and the west side," said city Planning Director Charles Graves. "We want our downtown to become a 24-hour downtown, with people who don't just work downtown but also live and shop downtown."

The slightly more than half-acre site for the Market Center West project currently houses a parking lot run by Parking Management Services and a 120-year-old empty former clothing warehouse on Howard Street called the Johnston Building.

The apartment complex would incorporate the facade of the warehouse and rise about 220 feet. This would make it shorter than the adjacent Bromo tower but tall enough to see Camden Yards over the Holiday Inn, said Hord.

On top of the L-shaped brick building will be a gymnasium, Hord said.

The corner of the building at Lombard and Howard streets will feature an octagonal tower that will echo the Bromo tower.

The first three stories will have 85 parking spaces. The ground floor will feature 6,400 square feet of retail space that is expected to attract convenience stores, delicatessens and perhaps small restaurants, said Hord.

The developers hope the retail businesses will thrive with the light-rail stop beside it, the proximity to Camden Yards, and the dozens of shops and hundreds of apartments proposed by the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation just north along Howard Street, Hord said.

If the city approves the project, construction should begin next summer and be completed by the summer of 2002.

The tax-break legislation submitted to the City Council would require the owner of the building to pay the taxes the city is now collecting for the parking lot -- $15,000 a year -- plus at least $33,500 a year the first five years, $200,000 the next five years, $300,000 in years 11 through 15 and $400,000 in years 16 through 20.

Overall, the city expects to collect $15 million more in taxes over the next 20 years than it is currently collecting, said M. J. "Jay" Brodie, director of the Baltimore Economic Development Corp.

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