City OKs high-rise over Metro station

Cordish Co. is to build condo-apartment tower near Port Discovery

December 06, 2005|By LORRAINE MIRABELLA | LORRAINE MIRABELLA,SUN REPORTER

The Cordish Co. has won city approval to build a 34-story residential tower atop an underground Metro station in downtown Baltimore on the former site of the Port Discovery HiFlyer balloon, the city's economic development agency said yesterday.

The $70 million proposal - one of two alternatives the developer submitted for the city-owned site at President and East Baltimore streets - will include a mixed-use development of up to 250 condominiums and apartments, street-level entertainment-oriented retailers and parking.

The project, adjacent to the Cordish-developed Power Plant Live complex and Port Discovery Children's Museum at Market Square, is expected to appeal to young professionals and others interested in living near an entertainment district of nightclubs and restaurants. The site is just blocks from the Inner Harbor with quick access to public transit and the central business district.

The Baltimore Development Corp. awarded Cordish the redevelopment rights to the half-acre wedge of land and the air rights above the Market Place/Shot Tower Metro station. The Maryland Transit Administration will be reviewing the proposal.

"We've approved the concept and want to move forward with it," said Kim Clark, director of development east for the municipal agency.

"It's building upon the current entertainment venue at Power Plant Live now, and the residential option brings something unique. We feel it's going to have a younger audience for residential there."

The proposal calls for 125 condos, 125 apartments, 50,000 square feet of retail and 400 parking spaces.

The proposal comes amid a wave of new condo and apartment buildings in the city from Canton to Locust Point, much of it high-end housing designed to appeal to young professionals and empty nesters trading suburban homes for urban living.

Developers are building waterfront apartments or condos or a mix of the two in Harbor East (just east of the Inner Harbor), Canton Crossing in Canton, Federal Hill's Harbor View and Locust Point.

The condos will have price tags of $200,000 to well over $1 million, plus monthly maintenance fees.

Construction has just begun on the $225 million Ritz-Carlton Residences on the waterfront at the foot of Federal Hill. Construction is to start soon on a 22-story, 312-unit condominium tower atop a city--owned garage at Water and Gay streets in the central business district.

Other nearly or recently completed condo projects include the 30-unit Brecco on Saratoga Street, the 17-unit Rombro Lofts on the west side and the Revels in Mount Vernon, with 13 units.

Work, then play

Cordish, which has developed urban entertainment projects similar to Power Plant Live in other cities, has begun developing residential components to its entertainment districts around the country, said Jonathan Cordish, a vice president.

"People love to live where they can work and play without getting into a car," Cordish said. "It creates an incredibly vibrant, fully activated district. This new development will make Power Plant Live into a complete mixed-use district on a par with any similar development in the country.

Cordish said the company remains convinced that the trend in the growth of downtown living will continue.

The new project "is in the heart of the central business district, plus right off of I-83, and directly over the Metro," Cordish said.

"The convenience offered by having so many means of transit at one's fingertips is unique to the location and should be a central ingredient of its appeal."

The redevelopment will stretch over a portion of Power Plant Live at one end of the Market Place entertainment complex. This will require the razing of the Butler Building.

Completed in 2007

The company is exploring a number of options for how to integrate the current tenants of that building. Cordish expects to attract nationally known entertainment attractions to the site. The developer hopes to complete the project by late 2007.

A second, less ambitious proposal would erect the residential tower over the Metro station without demolishing any structures.

The city's development agency will now enter into a 90-day negotiating period to negotiate terms for the deal.

The Cordish proposal was the only one submitted in response to a city request for bids in August. The proposal will go before the city's design panel for review, where public comments can be heard.

The Clark's agency sought redevelopment bids slightly more than a year after the Port Discovery HiFlyer balloon attraction was grounded after stalling in the air with passengers during a harrowing, wind-whipped final ride.

Clark said the biggest challenge in the redevelopment is likely to be the engineering of the site over a Metro station, which is built on city-owned land.

She said the MTA has provided the developer with engineering drawings for the site, where above-ground development has always been an option.

`Tricky part'

"With this site, the engineering is going to be the tricky part," she said.

Cordish said he envisioned the new project as an anchor of the east side of downtown.

"It has to be a world-class, signature retail and residential destination, and we will deliver on that," he said.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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