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City backs grant for East Side greening project

The city’s Board of Estimates this week voted to endorse plans to establish the Baltimore Food Hub in a rundown, abandoned city-owned property on the East Side.

The plan is to bring urban hoop gardens and a commercial kitchen as well as an office and training center in what was once a pumping station located at 1801 E. Oliver St.

The project is spearheaded by the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition Inc. in partnership with William “Bill” Struever’s Cross Street Partners, East Baltimore Development Inc. and The Reinvestment Fund, which is based in Philadelphia.

Today, the Victorian red-brick structures on the property sit encased in a massive chain-link fence, decayed from years of neglect.

The board’s vote on Wednesday was for a local government resolution in support of the food hub prior to application for a state Neighborhood BusinessWorks Program grant for $500,000. Those funds will help to redevelop the site. Estimates are that the project could bring 100 permanent jobs.

Lutherville’s Mullan Contracting Co. this week got the nod from H&S Bakery’s Northeast Foods subsidiary to build a 27,000-square-foot, two-building complex at the Hollander 95 Business Park in the northeastern part of the city.

The facility will be an office and distribution center to replace the current distribution center at the foot of Central Avenue in Harbor East. The nondescript brown cinderblock building there is set to be demolished later this year to make way for a new structure to hold an expanded Whole Foods grocery store and other retail as well as possibly residential units.

A new Hyatt hotel is under construction already next door to the existing distribution center.

The new distribution center is expected to open in midsummer and will also hold a 6,000-square-foot truck maintenance garage.

Northeast Foods, of course, is owned by John S. Paterakis and makes all the buns for fast-food king McDonald’s. That designation also makes the bakery the largest manufacturer and supplier of hamburger buns in the U.S.

Mullan President Joseph W. Rode said the facility will be a pre-engineered steel building while the truck maintenance project will be constructed of masonry and steel.

“Both buildings will need to be built simultaneously in order for us to meet the construction schedule,” Rode said in a statement.

The company will be busy in 2014 with other projects, he added.

“We expect 2014 to be extremely active for Mullan Contracting, as we have a healthy backlog of construction projects throughout the central Maryland and Northern Virginia marketplace.”

Sherwin-Williams paints opened recently a 4,100-square-foot store in the redeveloped Pikes Village Shopping Center.

The store is located at the site of the former Suburban House Restaurant, once the place to see and be seen in Pikesville at the corner of Sherwood Avenue and Reisterstown Road.

Schwaber Holdings, a Baltimore-based commercial and real estate investment management company, inked the deal.

Pikes Village holds retail, dining and service businesses and is credited with some of the revival going on in the Baltimore County community. It is located next to the newly reopened Pikes Movie Theater.

“Sherwin Williams is a dominant retailer that has a longstanding track record of serving its communities,” said Mark Renbaum, CEO of Schwaber Holdings, in a statement. “We are excited to have Sherwin Williams as the first tenant in our newly redeveloped Pikes Village Center, which promises to add to the renaissance of downtown Pikesville.”

A final-quarter 2013 report issued Thursday by Delta Associates showed that the luxury rental market in the Washington area was impacted by a recent spike in the number of available units.

The report predicted that the situation would continue into 2015 “and beyond, due to a record-setting wave of 28,500 units delivering to market over the next 24 months.”

Overall, the Class A rents declined across the metropolitan area by 3 percent in 2013. The vacancy rate was 4.7 percent, up slightly from December 2012, when it was 4.2 percent. There were a total of 39,122 rental units on line in the Washington metro area in December 2013.

Perhaps this report should be required reading for Baltimore-area developers building or planning to build record numbers of new luxury rental units all over town — in the downtown business district, Fells Point, Butcher’s Hill and Harbor Point in particular.

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