City seeks bids on west-side properties

April 13, 2006|By LORRAINE MIRABELLA | LORRAINE MIRABELLA,SUN REPORTER

Baltimore development officials hope to give the revitalization of downtown's west side a boost by offering seven mostly vacant properties for redevelopment.

The Baltimore Development Corp. yesterday requested proposals from developers for seven scattered sites in the once-struggling neighborhood. Since the city adopted an urban renewal plan in 1999, the Hippodrome Theater has been refurbished, and private developers have built new and redeveloped apartments, offices and shops.

The first condominiums are under construction in the Rombro Building, a converted garment factory.

The seven sites offered by the city, including six vacant or partially vacant buildings, one vacant lot and a parking lot, all are near planned redevelopment projects or in blocks where new private investment is occurring, said Kathy Robertson, director of the West Side Initiative for the BDC. The timing is right to offer the city-owned properties because of the increase in private investment in the neighborhood, Robertson said.

The city has not issued requests for proposals in the renewal district since 2003, when the city awarded development of the "superblock" at Lexington Street and Park Avenue to a New York-based developer for a mixed-use project.

In yesterday's request, the city said it is seeking proposals to rehab the buildings or construct new buildings for a mix of uses, such as housing, offices or shops, and plans to sell the buildings to developers.

"We don't want to limit the possibilities, but we want to see life on the first floor and that the entire building is renovated," Robertson said. "We want to let the development community determine the marketability of those properties."

The city purchased four of the vacant buildings in separate transactions since 1999 for $898,000, according to the request for proposals. Those include 612 N. Howard St., a vacant three-story building; 121 N. Greene St. , a vacant four-story building; and 324 Park Ave., two adjacent, vacant three-story buildings with fire damage.

The city also purchased two properties through tax sale foreclosures in 2005: 213 W. Mulberry St., a vacant lot, and 210 W. Pleasant St., a parking lot. Appraisals are pending on those properties.

All parcels are part of the Market Center Urban Renewal Area, bounded by Cathedral and Liberty streets to the east, Pratt Street to the south and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the north and west.

One of the vacant two story buildings, at 313 W. Franklin St., is next to the St. James project, which will be market-rate apartments. A partially vacant, seven-story building at 200 W. Saratoga St. is around the corner from 324 Park Ave.; both are close to private development of shops and offices under way in the 300 block of Park.

Developer bids are due July 7.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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