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Design panel endorses preliminary plans for park in Middle East

The lights are officially on at Union Wharf in Fells Point.

Beginning May 31, the first residents moved into the one- and two-bedroom units at the swank new apartment complex off Thames Street on the waterfront.

The $72 million development offers 24-hour concierge service and fitness classes, as well as other luxury perks like valet dry cleaning, round-the-clock emergency repair service and even a personal trainer referral bin.

The site was once a rotted, rat-infested bulkhead and pier, long forgotten in the city’s party-central community that attracts thousands to the bars and restaurants each weekend. Developer The Bozzuto Group, of Greenbelt, bought out a local owner who had stalled in his plans to build and forged ahead with conversion to the luxury digs.

Today, a stylish infinity pool sits in place of the decay and the development will eventually include retail and restaurant space on the street level. The Wharf also has a 12,000-square-foot clubhouse.

Units rent for $1,610 for a studio, $1,960 for a one-bedroom and $2,660 for a two-bedroom.

Baltimore’s Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel on Thursday endorsed preliminary schematic plans for a new 7-acre park in Middle East, as part of a new direction for the struggling 88-acre redevelopment by East Baltimore Development Inc., underway for more than a decade.

During an hour-long presentation by landscape architects from Mahan Rykiel Associates, the design of the $12 million Eager Park was detailed. It will have three sections, to be built in phases as funding permits, said Scott Levitan, senior vice president for Forest City-New East Baltimore Partners, master developer of the EBDI project.

The park’s southern end will be built first because it will be near a planned hotel. It will feature a modern metal canopy to be used for live entertainment, a walking trail, a grassy space and benches. The middle of the park will feature a community garden and space for a farmer’s market.

The final phase of the park will be built sometime in the future, Levitan said, as funding permits. That portion will include a children’s playground and a possible link to a new commuter train station that EBDI officials hope to open as a transit oriented development project.

A date for construction of the park had not been set.

Levitan said the new vision for the $1.8 billion EBDI project includes 1,700 to 2,000 new residential units, 1.1 million square feet of commercial and retail space and a new kindergarten through eighth-grade charter school, expected to open in January 2014.

The park, Levitan said, remains “dependent on funding” and so far about two-thirds of the needed funds have been obtained.

In April, Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was mayor when the EBDI project kicked off and worked to set it in motion, approved $1.3 million in state general funds to begin construction of Eager Park. Other funds are to come from state taxpayers from Program Open Space and other sources. State Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, an East Baltimore Democrat and vice chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, lobbied for the funds alongside the city delegation.

UDARP will consider further design plans for the park in the future.

This week, St. John Properties announced plans to build Reisterstown Crossing near Interstate 795 and Westminster Pike in Reisterstown.

The 10-acre project will hold about 100,000 square feet of Class A office and retail space and the first phase will contain about 14,000 square feet of commercial office and retail. That part is expected to break ground in the fall.

The development will add to St. John’s portfolio in the northern quadrant of Baltimore County.

“We expect to deliver the inaugural product at Reisterstown Business Center next spring and then quickly follow with the construction of the balance of the business community as demand dictates,” said Jerry Wit, St. John senior vice president for marketing. “Based on our research, we have detected a significant increase in the demand for quality office and retail space in this sub-market and are taking advantage of the lack of new construction activity in recent years. In addition, we have maintained nearly 100 per cent occupancy at our Reisterstown and Owings Mills-area properties and the timing is ideal to expand our northwest Baltimore County presence.”

The commercial leasing group CBRE said this week it had recently inked long-term leases totaling 28,826 square feet of space at McDonough Crossroads in Owings Mills with two medical groups and two physicians.

The deals were made for property owner 21 Crossroads Drive Limited Partnership and include space for Advanced Radiology, which leased 15,438 square feet on the ground floor and Chesapeake Urology Associates P.A., which leased 8,842 square feet.

“There is a lot of uncertainty right now in the health care field due in part to the laws that are set to take effect in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act and changes in the Maryland hospital reimbursement schedules that were announced last week,” said Mel Herzberger, president of American Property Management, property manager for 21 Crossroads Drive, in a statement. “These lease renewals are extremely important because they provide continuity of care for patients and allow members of the community to access the same top-quality physicians and practitioners they have come to know and rely on.”

TIDBITS: NAI KLNB, working with C-III Realty Services, recently brokered the sale of Rivers Center 18, at 10150 Old Columbia Road in Howard County for $4 million … Merritt Properties guided Event Dynamics Inc. to lease 2,550 square feet of warehouse space at 152 Blades Lane in Anne Arundel County to store its rental party supplies … Apples and Oranges, a new full-service grocery store in East Baltimore, will host cooking demonstrations on June 22 beginning at 11 a.m. in partnership with a local group of restaurateurs … First Mariner Bank bought back the posh Inn at The Black Olive on Thursday at a bankruptcy auction. The bank paid $3.9 million for the property that it had held the mortgage on. The 12-room inn will remain open while the bank seeks a new owner…The city’s Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel on Thursday closed a session to review design plans for the new bridge to be built on Central Avenue leading to Harbor Point. City Planning Director Thomas Stosur said the public was barred from the discussion because the bridge was “not ready for prime time” — even though he said developer Michael Beatty has said construction should begin as soon as possible. City Transportation Chief Frank Murphy attended the closed session.