Vision for Uplands presented to city

Development blending urban, suburban elements would begin with apartments

November 14, 2008|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

Developers of the Uplands, planned as one of the biggest new-home developments in Baltimore in decades, showed a city panel yesterday their vision of the economically diverse neighborhood they want to build that would blend suburban and urban elements.

Work could start by the end of next year to transform 100 acres of boarded-up apartments near Edmondson Avenue in Southwest Baltimore into a mix of 1,100 apartments, condominiums and single-family attached and detached homes that would be for sale and rent, developers said.

With the housing slump continuing, the team plans to start with the rental homes, said a development officer for Pennrose, the lead developer on the long-planned project. The first phase would include 104 units in a mix of townhouses and apartments and could get under way by 2010, said Ivy Dench-Carter, a development officer for Philadelphia-based Pennrose.

"Now we're only proceeding with the rentals, and we're hoping within the next year the real estate market will rebound," Dench-Carter said. "We're not letting the market stop us, and the rental market isn't as badly hit."

Mix of home styles

The master plan presented yesterday to the city's Urban Design and Architecture Review Committee presented a total of 744 homes built along winding streets amid small parks with a gazebo and a clubhouse with a swimming pool. It showed a mix of detached homes, duplex and triplex homes, townhouses, apartment buildings and "mansionettes," or buildings containing three to six apartments but built to look like a large single-family home. The area sits close to the Baltimore County line, near the Ten Hills neighborhood, with large single-family homes, and the existing Uplands neighborhood of rowhouses.

David Dixon, a principal with master planning firm Goody Clancy, promised a neighborhood that would be different from surrounding areas, with a mix of housing types that would make it look neither fully urban nor suburban.

"The future of a neighborhood like this and its ability to thrive lays in the diversity of the neighborhood," he told panel members.

Rental rates and home prices have not been set. The development must include some affordable housing under an agreement with city officials.

Design panel members said they agreed with much of the design, which had changed in layout from an earlier 2004 master plan, but they asked the developers to rethink some elements. They disliked the placement of several apartment buildings along Edmondson Avenue in a way they worried could wall-off the neighborhood.

The city, which had acquired the former Uplands Apartments from the federal government in 2004, chose Pennrose last year to lead the $200 million redevelopment effort along with a team that included Bethesda-based home builder EYA and Uplands Partners, made up of Ambridge LLC, Banks Contracting Co., Doracon Development, Harrison Development, the Cryor Group and former Prince George's County executive Wayne K. Curry.

Legal problems

Legal challenges have slowed the project. And this year, the Uplands drew attention because of the involvement of Doracon's Ronald H. Lipscomb. The state prosecutor's office has been seeking information about development projects involving Lipscomb as part of an investigation focused in part on gifts Mayor Sheila Dixon received from the developer during her term as City Council president.

There has been no indication that the investigation has focused on the Uplands project. Dixon has denied that a brief personal relationship she had with Lipscomb influenced decisions she made.

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