BDC says it is open to west-side offers

Existing firms welcome to submit rehab proposals

December 27, 2003|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's economic development agency says it welcomes redevelopment ideas from current business and property owners on and near a blighted stretch of West Lexington Street.

"This is really a big deal," said John C. Murphy, a lawyer who represents several merchants on downtown's west side.

Those merchants had worried that the city would accept proposals only from big developers, he said, which would have increased the likelihood that existing shopkeepers would be evicted.

Murphy received a copy yesterday of a Dec. 19 letter signed by M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of Baltimore Development Corp., and Sharon Grinnell, the agency's chief operating officer.

"Through this letter, we confirm that we are please[d] to accept the submission of such proposals," Brodie and Grinnell wrote.

Murphy said BDC's commitment will lead to rehabilitation bids from merchants such as the Peanut Shoppe, a 70-year fixture at 101 W. Lexington, and Shoe Fair, which has operated at 220 W. Fayette St. for more than half a century.

The outcome, Murphy said, could one day resemble a "mosaic" of new and old businesses that fulfills Mayor Martin O'Malley's goal of reviving the struggling stretch while saving longtime businesses.

O'Malley has said he is eager to see progress in the area. Nearby, the Hippodrome theater's extensive rehabilitation is nearing completion and Bank of America's Centerpoint retail and residential project is taking shape just to the southwest.

BDC has requested proposals for what it calls the west-side "super block." It is an area bounded by Fayette, Liberty, Clay and Howard streets. It includes the southern side of Lexington Street and the southern half of the Lexington Street mall.

Proposals, which are due Feb. 27, may include new construction as well as rehabilitation of existing structures. Developers will have to follow restrictions related to preserving historic buildings.

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