Officials hope west side properties will get another look

City and university officials are trying, again, to jumpstart development on the city’s west side.

University of Maryland Baltimore plans to seek developers for almost a block of properties close to its campus, bounded by N. Eutaw, Fayette, Paca and Marion Streets, according to a plan submitted Thursday to the University System Board of Regents. The city, which sits on a task force with the university focused on development in the neighborhood, released a request for proposals on two sites in the same area in February.

An effort in 2006 to develop the university’s almost one acre assemblage of properties, known as the “Drovers,” did not come to fruition, but officials said the market has improved. The properties include two historic buildings, a parking lot and a vacant parcel.

The university would receive ground rent from the developers of its properties, according to the plan submitted for review Thursday. It has ruled out liquor stores, stand-alone bars and other uses “not consistent” with the university mission.

“I think the feeling is that economically the timing is good,” University of Maryland Baltimore spokesman Alex Likowski said. “This would develop a block adjacent to the campus, which is good for the neighborhood, good for the campus and hopefully return some financial benefit to the city.”

Baltimore Development Corporation officials said about 20 people attended an information session held Wednesday about the city’s three properties in the 400 block of N. Howard Street, which opened to development proposals in February. A session about the second city site, six properties in the area of Liberty, Clay and Marion Streets, will be held April 1.

"It's an indication of some action, but it's just the tip of the iceberg of what has to happen," Ron Kreitner, executive director of the WestSide Renaissance non-profit, said in February when the city issued its requests for proposals (RFP). "It's relatively easy to put out an RFP. The real work involved is in promoting the potential of the properties and the west side."

Both city sites have gone out to bid before. Baltimore Development Corporation President Brenda McKenzie said the city hopes the properties, many of them historic, will get new life as mixed use and shopping sites. The city is also planning to ask for bids in April on two properties in the 400 block of Mulberry Street, just north of Lexington Market, she said Thursday at a regular meeting of the BDC board.

She did not provide an update for board members about the “Superblock” project, a square-block bordered by Howard, Fayette, Lexington and Park Avenue, which has been tied up in litigation.

The University of Maryland Baltimore is also in negotiations with a developer for a proposed 160-unit hotel on a .4-acre parcel in the BioPark, aimed at serving families of cancer patients who would receive care from the new proton treatment center, currently in construction.  

Likowski declined to disclose the name of the developer because negotiations have not been finalized. The UMB Health Sciences Research Park Corporation, the business entity in charge of the BioPark, has asked the Board of Regents to extend the tems of the ground lease on the parcel to allow the developer to hold it for 78 years, including 3 years of construction, up from 50 years.

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