John Brooks, the developer behind a proposal to build 19 townhomes and 15 apartments on the site of the historic Crittenton Home in Hampden, said a community proposal to reduce the size of homes on the property isn’t feasible financially.
Brooks made his comments on Tuesday, during a Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation hearing on whether to approve an altered concept plan for the development. During the meeting, residents from surrounding streets presented an alternate plan that would require the proposed townhouses to be no larger than 18 feet wide and 35 feet long. As presented, the plans call for the homes to be 40 feet deep and 20 feet wide.
“Changing the depth of the house, or the height, ruins the marketability of it,” Brooks said.
He argued that much of the basement of the townhomes will be taken up by parking and if they reduce the length by five feet, the front entry bedroom in the houses will have to be eliminated. Al Barry, Brooks’ land use consultant, also said that making the alterations suggested by neighbors would eliminate parking from the project.
“If you take all of their comments and expect them to be met you have a project that is not going to be built as a practical matter,” Barry said.
But neighbors argued that by reducing the size of the townhomes it would eliminate the developer’s need for a variance to build the project and would make the homes more in keeping with the size of those in the surrounding areas. In March the Board of Municipal Appeals rejected a request for a variance to build the homes closer to the curb.
Michael Cook, a resident who has lived across 32nd Street from the property for 35 years, said his main concern is the scale and massing of the project and how it would crowd the historic mansion as well as surrounding properties.
“We came together and came up with this plan that we think will be a better plan. It will allow the proposed construction to meet all the setbacks,” Cook said.
The project is proposed on the land of what is now known as the Crittenton Home in the 3100 block of Crittenton Place. The historic mansion was originally built by David Carroll, the original owner of the Mt. Vernon Mills, and is one of only two remaining mill mansions left in the Jones Falls Valley. The home was purchased in 1925 by the Florence Crittenton Society and used as a home for unwed mothers.
The plan calls for demolishing a dorm that was built on the property in the 1990s and adding 14 apartments to the historic mansion.
Johns Hopkins, executive director of Baltimore Heritage, said during the meeting that he has met with the developer and commended the plan for the work on the historic rehab portion of the project, but added his organization still has concerns about the project.
“If you look at the interior setbacks of as little as five and eight feet, those are not sufficient to protect the resource that is the mansion,” Hopkins said.