Brooklyn gets town center plan

Developer would put homes, shops on lot

March 16, 2006|By LORRAINE MIRABELLA | LORRAINE MIRABELLA,SUN REPORTER

Condos or apartments, a grocery store and neighborhood shops would be built on the site of a former junkyard in Brooklyn under a developer's proposal to transform 17 industrial acres in the South Baltimore neighborhood.

Business Real Estate Partners LLC proposed the project in response to a request from Baltimore Development Corp., which is marketing the vacant, city-owned land along with a vacant parcel owned by the state.

The developer, the only one to submit a plan for the site at Potee and Garrett streets, envisions a Brooklyn town center that could help build a neighborhood identity. The site is bordered by the Harbor Tunnel Thruway to the west, commercial development along Potee Street to the east and rowhouses just across the Anne Arundel County border to the south.

BDC officials said they were reviewing the proposal.

The BDC did not specify uses for the site in its request for developer proposals, Andrew B. Frank, executive vice president of the BDC, said yesterday. If the town center proposal is accepted, the site would need to be rezoned to allow housing, he said. "We believed in offering this that the site had industrial-use potential and mixed-use potential, so a proposal for residential is something we need to carefully consider," he said.

"The city's general goal is to see redevelopment that will create jobs and increase the tax base and be something that supports the community's vision for the site," Frank said. Community members have long hoped to see a supermarket locate in the area, he said.

As a vacant, trash-strewn parcel for the past 15 years, "it's been a tremendous detriment to Brooklyn," said Mitch Gold, a partner in Business Real Estate.

"This piece of property does more to drag down the neighborhood than any other property," Gold said.

He said that while redevelopment has swept across much of the city, bringing in new homes, shops and entertainment, "I would say Brooklyn has been overlooked."

The project would be the first development for Gold, who has worked as a commercial broker for two decades.

The plan calls for 320 residential units and 90,000 square feet of commercial space in six buildings. Gold said he had no estimate of the project's cost.

Some 224 condos or apartments would be in two buildings, including one with a six-floor, 300-space parking garage with a full-service grocery store on the ground level, and one with 15,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground level. The developers haven't determined whether to build rental apartments or condos that would likely sell for up to $250,000, Gold said.

The project would also include a 96-unit subsidized senior housing building with a garage and three single-story buildings for neighborhood shops.

The city acquired its parcel in 1986 through eminent domain, after residents complained about the salvage yard that operated there at the time. The state had purchased a portion of the site from the city to build a courthouse, but abandoned those plans when methane gas was discovered underneath.

The BDC has done site testing and analysis with the help of brownfields funding from the Environmental Protection Agency. A site developer would likely have access to the BDC's revolving loan fund for cleanup.

A developer would need to clean up contaminants from the site's days as an unregulated landfill, then an auto salvage yard, said Evans Paull, BDC's director of the Brownfields Initiative. The extent and type of cleanup would depend in part on the type of development done.

Gold said the first step in his team's plan would be to create a four-acre park zone and storm-water management sites. The project would be completed in two phases, with the land development and cleanup taking about two years.

The construction would start after that, based on market demand, Gold said.

Gold is working with a team that includes Robertson Design as the architect, AKRF as civil engineer, Manekin Corp. as retail consultant and CC. Graves & Associates as planning consultant.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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