Preliminary drawings for a 1,400-space parking garage in the New East Baltimore development north of Johns Hopkins Hospital received a lukewarm reception after they were unveiled Wednesday before a city design panel.
The garage, which a development official said is expected to cost up to $30 million, is planned to be 95 feet high and could open by late 2012.
It is designed to be a 10-story structure, but with a minimalist façade will appear as if it is only four stories, said Ed Hodges, an architect at Boston-based DiMella Shaffer, one of the main designers of the project.
Some members of the city’s Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel peppered the designers about the size and scope of the garage, the plans for retail on the first level and even the landscaping.
“Right now, it’s too gross,” said Gary Bowden, a UDARP member, of the size of the structure. “It’s too grossly big.”
The panel will meet with the parking garage design team at least two more times to review detailed plans throughout the spring.
Located on 88 acres in Middle East, the New East Baltimore venture is the nation’s largest urban redevelopment project, projected to cost $1.8 billion.
East Baltimore Development Inc., a nonprofit created to develop the site, has spent $564 million so far on the project — $212.6 million of it public funds.
Over a decade, plans to create a massive, world-class biotech park by EBDI and the Johns Hopkins University have been largely shelved in favor of more retail and commercial development at the site, from which more than 600 residents have been relocated and their homes demolished. The Baltimore City Council will begin hearings on the project March 30 before the Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee.
The council acted after The Daily Record published a series of articles detailing issues with the EBDI project’s mission, lagging development and finances. The stories showed that only 220 housing units have been constructed, most of them rentals, even though original plans called for 599 houses to be completed or under construction by now.
Most of the new housing will be at the 20-story, 321-unit graduate student tower, which was not in the original plans for the site and is being built now.
Along with that $60 million structure in the 900 block of North Wolfe Street, and the parking garage, EBDI plans to construct a 150-room hotel by 2013, said John Lecker, vice president of development for Forest City-New East Baltimore Partnership, the master developer.
During an hour-long presentation, Hodges and other team members described the garage, which will abut the graduate student tower. The garage will serve the graduate students, Hopkins employees and workers at the John G. Rangos Sr. life sciences building, said Hodges, whose firm is also the lead architect on the tower.
The garage will contain 10,000 square feet of ground-level retail space, with a commercial gateway at Ashland Avenue and Washington Street, he added. The intention is to spark pedestrian traffic along the Ashland Avenue corridor, Hodges said.
On a strip of land behind the garage site and to the north of the graduate student tower, EBDI officials hope to construct more residential housing in a U-shaped building, the plans showed. No details of that project were disclosed.
Lecker said at a meeting at Morgan State University last week that the groundbreaking for the parking garage is planned for late this year.
Wednesday, he declined to answer questions about the project before getting into an elevator after the meeting, held at the Baltimore Development Corp.’s downtown offices.
He referred all questions to Scott Levitan, Forest City’s senior vice president.
Levitan did not return a call for comment.