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City Life Builders to join in EBDI project

City Life Builders is planning to build and renovate up to 50 properties in the East Baltimore Development Inc. redevelopment area, EBDI officials announced on a Facebook page this week.

The local company, owned by Anne R. Riggle, recently staked its flag near EBDI’s headquarters in the 88-acre footprint in Middle East, opening an office at 855 N. Collington Ave.

Riggle is planning to open a model home one block away from the $40 million Henderson Hopkins Community School, under construction at the $1.8 billion EBDI development and expected to open in early 2014.

Many of Riggle’s new home sites at EBDI will be located on Madeira Street, a tiny thoroughfare that abuts the school site at Ashland Avenue.

Another cluster of new homes is planned for a site nearby, off the 2100 block of East Eager Street near the school site, but has been stalled for more than a year while the city and EBDI officials worked to identify funds for demolition of dozens of vacant, blighted row houses there. A city source said that Ryland Homes is a front-runner to develop new housing units there.

“We are anticipating developing about 50 properties over the next several years,” Riggle told the nonprofit EBDI’s reps who maintain a Facebook page titled “Real East Baltimore” that regularly updates the massive project that has been beset by fits and starts since it launched in 2002.

“There are going to be more amenities and options for buys than in any other location. … Every single one of our houses is part of the city’s Vacants to Value program. Every buyer we have sold a home to has received $10,000 in Vacants to Value money. There’s the Live Near Your Work Program — Johns Hopkins employees are receiving significant funds. Other employers are participating in Live Near Your Work incentives as well.”

Renovations are coming to the Maryland Science Center, an Inner Harbor attraction that draws more than 500,000 visitors a year.

The changes and upgrades are expected to begin in September and include a new Sci-Lab, upgrades to the Davis Planetarium and addition of an exhibit on electricity called Power Up.

Maryland Science Center President and CEO Van R. Reiner said the renovations and additions are needed to help freshen the exhibits. Also included will be a 1,500-square-foot, hands-on exhibition space on the third floor called The Shed. There, visitors will be able to attend science-related workshops and tinker with audio and video equipment, engineering experiments and chemistry-related probes starting next month.

The Power Up exhibit is expected to open in early 2014, while the $1.2 million in upgrades to the planetarium — which include a digital projector and a state-of-the-art dome — are set to begin in September.

“The creation of spaces suited for increased interactive activities and modification of existing spaces to accommodate new programming continues the Maryland Science Center’s commitment to providing visitors with hands-on, experiential science exploration,” Reiner said in a statement.

Cushman & Wakefield of Maryland Inc. recently sold the Rivers Business Commons development at 8945 Guilford Road in Columbia. The buyer, Washington-based Fernau LeBlanc Investment Partners, has invested in a property that is currently 87 percent leased.

The Rivers Business Commons development is a 101,596-square-foot project consisting of four Class A office buildings.

A nearly 11,000-square-foot industrial building in Millersville was recently sold by the Michael M. Bogdon Living Trust to Spanos LLC for $1.1 million. NAI KLNB brokered the deal for the property located at 403 Serendipity Drive.

The property is located on nearly two acres off Benfield Boulevard at Interstate 97. New owner Spanos is the real estate holding company for the environmental consulting company Vironex, which plans to move to the site from Bowie.

“Goodbye Solo Cup, Hello Foundry Row!” reads a newsletter sent out this week by Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond, whose 2nd District includes the Owings Mills site where a new Wegmans is planned for a $140 million development at Reisterstown and Painters Mills roads.

While the old plant is in the throes of demolition these days, legal issues still swirl around the planned development by Greenberg Gibbons, says Stuart Kaplow, an attorney who is representing another group opposed to the Foundry Row project.

Kaplow said this week hearings are ongoing — in Baltimore County Circuit Court and before an administrative law judge in the county — over issues relating to the development, including a push made last year by opponents for a referendum on the 2014 ballot about an August 2012 zoning change approved by the County Council.

A spokeswoman for Greenberg Gibbons did not respond to a request for comment.

The new shopping center is expected to open in late 2015 with 365,000 square feet of retail space.

In the meantime, other changes are going on nearby in Owings Mills.

The 116-unit Metro Crossing Apartments at the brand new Metro Centre development are just beginning to fill with new tenants, officials of Metro Centre’s David S. Brown Ltd. said this week. A second building in the Metro Crossing development is expected to open this fall with another 116 units.

All of this change seems to have had a wilting impact at the struggling Owings Mills Mall, located less than a mile away from Metro Centre.

A source said some of the remaining businesses there were informed this week that their leases would not be renewed at the end of the year. Plans for a renovation of the suburban mall that opened in 1986 and once held a Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue as anchors have been on the back burner for a couple of years by owner General Growth Properties in partnership with Kimco Realty Corp. as the battle over Foundry Row raged on.

TIDBITS: Commercial real estate leasing veteran Stacey Berman recently joined the local office of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank to help lease space at the Village of Cross Keys in North Baltimore. Berman had been an executive at Manekin LLC. … As the housing market begins to rebound, a first-time homebuyer seminar will be held on Aug. 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Herring Run Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, located at 3801 Erdman Ave. Belair Edison Neighborhoods Inc. is the sponsor. Call 410-485-8422 to register. … Caton Properties of Ellicott City, a division of Weichert Realtors, is giving away custom children’s playhouses in a free drawing at the Howard County Fair, which opens Aug. 3. Visitors to the realty booth at the fair can register to win one of two “kiddie getaways” — a cottage-style 4-foot-by-4-foot playhouse for a girl and a similar-sized firehouse replica for a boy. … Starbucks is set to open a new shop at St. Paul Place and Saratoga Street in September in the new Embassy Suites property there. … First it was gambling. Now it’s glamping. The trendy form of “glamorous camping” is coming to the Western Maryland hamlet of Frostburg as the Savage River Lodge opens eight luxury yurts in the fall. The yurts, or round hut-like structures with a bent-frame roof, will have king-sized beds, a private bath with an extra large shower, a gas-log fireplace and even daily delivery of muffins and orange juice. So Frostburg doesn’t become Freezeburg, the yurts will also have a unique bamboo radiant floor heating system.