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Remington residents fear Walmart expansion

A group of Remington residents has sent a list of concerns to the city’s Planning Department over a new proposed design for 25th Street Station, a 11-acre development that will be anchored by Baltimore’s first Super Walmart.

Representatives of the Arkansas-based retailer last week presented a revised design for the $65 million project to the city’s Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel.

The plans were redrawn after Lowe’s announced it would not locate a home improvement store there and plans eliminated a parking garage originally intended for both retailers. The plans also showed space available near 25th and Howard Streets for development of other new retail and residential units.

A Walmart official told UDARP that the retailer planned to purchase part of the property to build the store, and leave the rest of the site for developer Rick Walker to purchase and develop.

Residents who live nearby say they are concerned about the new design, and on Wednesday submitted a list of those worries to the panel, which met in closed session to discuss the project.

“It’s about livability of the residential portion of the neighborhood and maintaining value and livability,” said Joan Floyd, president of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance. “These were always issues we looked at very carefully, and now they need to be looked at carefully again.”

Floyd said residents have heightened concerns because the new design is being “treated as a minor amendment” to the site development plan, which was approved in 2010.

Walmart officials have increased the size of the store to 104,000 square feet from 94,000 square feet, when Lowe’s was still committed to the project. Lowe’s pulled out of the development in fall 2011.

The issues, Floyd said, are centered on potential vehicle and truck traffic at the site, particularly on 24th Street near Howard Street and Maryland Avenue.

They include:

* Concerns that the intersection of 24th and Howard is unable to accommodate Walmart’s 18-wheeler trucks.

* Concerns over increases in vehicular and truck traffic in the residential and business zones that make up Remington.

* A lack of prior approvals by planning officials for driveways now designed for 24th Street to carry truck traffic.

* Relocation of a Walmart loading dock under the new design because it is “closer to homes” and newly designed location of a truck turn-around near the loading dock.

* The lack of a traffic impact study by city traffic officials based on the new design.

Last week, the new 25th Street Station design was rejected by UDARP, which told Walmart officials to return with more pedestrian-friendly renderings and plans that were more in line with the community.

The architects are planning to return to present revisions on Oct. 10.

Jon M. Laria, an attorney at Ballard Spahr who represents the project’s developer and his WV Baltimore-24/Sisson LLC, said Wednesday that all sides were mindful of the concerns of the community and UDARP.

“We appreciated many of UDARP’s comments regarding potential design improvements, including better pedestrian circulation, and expect to present revised plans to UDARP next week,” Laria wrote in an email. “As for the trucks, the loading dock hasn’t moved and the number of trucks will decrease from the original project, which had both a Walmart and a Lowe’s. The project is being reduced in size by well over 100,000 square feet, so its impact will necessarily be less than before.”