With the success of Harbor East, city planners are shifting their attention to redeveloping the industrial shoreline of the Middle Branch in Westport, a 50-acre swath some have dubbed "Harbor West."
City planning staff are to present proposed development guidelines today at a working session of the city's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel, with the goal of having City Council adopt a new urban renewal plan for Westport's waterfront by late summer.
Planners have been working with Patrick Turner of Baltimore-based Henrietta Development Corp., which bought the 16-acre site of the shuttered Carr-Lowrey glass manufacturing plant on Kloman Street and plans a mixed-use development. Turner declined to discuss details of his plan, saying it was too early to comment.
The city envisions transforming a waterfront dotted with abandoned plants and some active businesses into condos, apartments and townhouses, along with some offices and neighborhood stores, clustered around the Westport light-rail station.
Another property owner, Constellation Energy Group, which owns a former Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. power plant on Kloman Street, is close to selling the 12-acre site, a Constellation spokesman said yesterday. Constellation said it could not identify the prospective buyer.
The city began eyeing the stretch from Waterview Avenue to Interstate 95 for residential development after commercial brokers assured the city more than a year ago that an industrial market no longer existed there, said D. Christopher Ryer, deputy director of the city Department of Planning. The city chose not to protect the area for maritime use because of the shallowness of the water.
With the city's housing market booming, buyers clamoring for urban, waterfront homes and available land in short supply, planners and developers see the Middle Branch as the next frontier for upscale housing.
"It's the only [remaining] opportunity for waterfront redevelopment," other than areas reserved for port-related uses, Ryer said.
"We would envision a transit-oriented development, a mixed-use, fairly high-density development that is very walkable," he said. "You wouldn't see destination retail there, like a regional Wal-Mart; you would see retail for that neighborhood. Ideally, you're looking at a mixture of housing products, whether high-rise, mid-rise or low-rise, with density clustered around the [Westport light rail] transit station. But we're also trying to preserve a sense of openness and views toward the water."
Developer A. Rod Womack has no doubts about the attraction of such water views in such a hot housing market, where he said Baltimore still seems a bargain compared with Washington prices. A water location, plus the appeal of new, spacious homes and quick access to both I-95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway will lure Washington commuters, empty-nesters and other buyers to the shores of the Middle Branch - or "Harbor West" he said.
Womack, chief executive officer of Baltimore-based CIMG Inc., is building Waterview Overlook on 10 acres along Waterview Avenue between Westport and Cherry Hill, across the street from Middle Branch Park. He plans to start selling the more than 100 townhouses and condos in two weeks, touting amenities such as a private pool, garages, a fitness center and a clubhouse.
"We're trying to create a little Canton or Harbor East in Harbor West," Womack said. "If you think about it, there's no more waterfront left. There's nowhere else for folks to develop along the water in Baltimore City."
City officials expect that the portion of the Westport waterfront owned by Turner could be rezoned by late summer to allow mixed-use development. Turner would need to seek a rezoning, which would require City Council approval. Turner bought the 16-acre Carr-Lowrey site at auction in November for $6.82 million, records show.
Turner's Henrietta Development Corp. is transforming a former 290-foot grain elevator in historically blue-collar Locust Point into upscale condos. National homebuilder Pulte Homes is building 121 townhouses on another part of that 15-acre site.
In Westport, zoning changes would likely permit 1,200 to 1,500 homes on the entire 50 acres, along with commercial and retail uses. The stretch now includes the city-owned and mostly unused Kloman ball field; a truck maintenance facility for trash hauling company Cockey's Enterprises Inc.; the former BGE plant, the Carr-Lowrey site and Brice Concrete mixing plant.
Robert Singleton, chief operating officer for Cockey's, said the company bought the property in the late 1990s -not for water views but because it needed space to park and maintain trucks and equipment.
"We haven't addressed the issue of what in the long-term to do with it," said Singleton, who would not comment on whether developers have approached him about buying the land. "We're focused on running the company."