Baltimore's Urban Design and Architecture Review panel approved Thursday the master plan for a nearly 3 million-square-foot development at Harbor Point, between Harbor East and Fells Point, where Exelon's new headquarters is expected to be built.
The removal of a proposed building and an accompanying playing field for U.S. Lacrosse was the most prominent change to the plan since it was first presented to the panel in early July.
The national governing body for men's, women's and youth lacrosse decided to move to Baltimore County instead of to the city's waterfront, according to Harbor Point's developer. The area planned for a lacrosse field at Harbor Point will instead be used for a public park that might have room for a sports field, the project's lead architect said.
The revised design was presented to the panel by members of Ayers Saint Gross, the Baltimore-based architectural firm hired by John Paterakis' Harbor East Development Group to create the master plan for the 27-acre waterfront parcel, formerly the site of an Allied Signal chromium plant.
Butchers Hill resident Carolyn Boitnott, who has been active for decades in waterfront redevelopment, told the panel she appreciated the revisions to the site's public space but encouraged the developer and architect to consider making the waterfront public areas more accessible to pedestrians heading west from Fells Point.
The panel's main concern Thursday was that design plans have not yet been made public for a bridge to extend South Central Avenue over the canal that separates Harbor Point from Harbor East. The bridge is being engineered by the city's Department of Transportation and was not part of the master plan.
"We're waiting on DOT to bring those plans forward," Tom Stosur, the city's planning director, said at the meeting.
The panel's approval clears the way for the Harbor Point project to be considered by the City Council, which must pass an ordinance detailing the design and character of the development.
The design panel, known as UDARP, also recommended initial approval of the redevelopment of the Rotunda mall in North Baltimore's Hampden neighborhood. At least one more hearing will be held before the panel decides whether to recommend city approval of the overall redevelopment plan. The hearing has not been scheduled.
The panel rejected concerns that the proposed setback between the redevelopment site and homes on nearby 38th Street was inadequate.
City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said she had heard from residents who complained that the proposed setbacks along the block were not large enough and asked UDARP to recommend a minimum 30-foot setback from the Rotunda property line along the 800 block of W. 38th St., where Rotunda owner Hekemian & Co. plans to build apartment buildings, parking and retail stores facing a plaza.
But panel members seemed more interested in the design of the planned buildings, which they said seemed too tame. One panelist urged the Hekemian representatives to "have some fun with it."
Panel members expressed satisfaction that Hekemian now proposes to expand the plaza by 20 percent based on suggestions put forth at a UDARP hearing in July.
Controversial plans by Hekemian to close the mall's interior to the public, with stores opening onto the plaza instead, were not discussed Thursday.
The panel members appeared mostly satisfied with the plan presented by Hekemian and its architects and gave it preliminary schematic approval.
Panelist Gary Bowden said he thought the project was "headed in the right direction."
UDARP also heard an informal presentation Thursday from the Linthicum-based Landex Cos., which seeks to build a "town center" of 250 apartments and 30,000 square feet of retail space on five acres near the light rail station on West Cold Spring Lane, near the Coldspring Newtown neighborhood.
The presentation was introductory and nonbinding, giving Landex a chance to sound out the panel about the project before plans "harden," Bowden said.
Landex officials presented the project this year to the Roland Park Civic League. At that meeting, residents said they appreciated Landex's proposal to build a pedestrian walkway connecting the project to the light rail stop.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. has proposed to build a substation with a high-voltage transformer nearby, prompting Landex officials to worry that potential residents of the new development would be put off.
BGE and Landex are still in discussions, Landex's chairwoman, Judy Siegel, said at Thursday's hearing.
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