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Artists expected to pitch West Side project

Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc. President Kirby Fowler said he hopes to see some creative suggestions for the redevelopment of three city properties on North Howard Street that are part of a larger effort to revitalize the West Side.

The Baltimore Development Corp. issued a request for proposals in February for redevelopment of $1.3 million of property in what is labeled as the Franklin Howard request for proposal.

“I understand some artist groups are collaborating together to submit a proposal, and I’m excited to see it,” Fowler said. “I think continuing to push the presence of artists in the Bromo district is one of the better things to pursue as we’re evaluating these RFP responses.”

The Franklin Howard redevelopment requests consist of a row of three-story vacant buildings between 408-414 N. Howard St. that are zoned as part of the city’s central business district.

There’s already an artist presence in the area with galleries and the H&H Building nearby.

“I think the artists groups that will be bidding on these properties want to be part of an emerging arts scene,” Fowler said.

About 7,291 residents live in the area, with 4,100 condos and apartments with an occupancy rate of about 96 percent, according to the request for proposal.

The BDC did not respond to a request for comment for this story. But Brenda McKenzie, president and CEO of the BDC, previously said this revitalization effort is important to improve the city.

“The revitalization of the West Side is critical to growing the city forward,” McKenzie said in a February news release. “Our goal is a vibrant, multidimensional neighborhood, with diverse commercial and residential options.”

At the same time in February, the BDC also released a request for proposal it labeled Liberty Clay Marion, which is a more extensive project. It consists of 10 properties, the most valuable of which is a parking lot valued at $1.16 million. Proposals for the redevelopment of those sites are not due until May 20.

Yong Cho, the owner of the Lexington Beauty shop, said she’s looking forward to see what those proposals yield. She said things are already improving along the block and that the recent opening of a 7-Eleven convenience store and a clothing store nearby are examples of the neighborhood improving.

“I’m excited. I’ve been waiting for [the city to take action] for more than 10 years.” Cho said.

Efforts to revitalize the area have gained momentum in recent years, with the addition of the Everyman Theatre to the neighborhood, along with a capital improvement plan for the historic Lexington Market. Market Ventures Inc., of Portland, Maine, is scheduled to present a market study to the city in the fall on how to improve the market.

Another boon for the West Side came last month when the Maryland Court of Appeals vacated a lower court judge’s ruling that the $1.5 billion State Center renewal project was not competitively bid, clearing the way for the mixed-use development to be built.

A more extensive rebranding of the area is also being undertaken by the Downtown Partnership. The nonprofit announced last month that it intends to try and rebrand downtown into nine neighborhoods.