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Cold Spring development takes the long way

The proposed transit-oriented development at the southeast corner near where Cold Spring Lane and Interstate 83 meet in Baltimore has taken the long route to becoming reality.

The project, which is being called 2001 Cold Spring, has gone through several iterations. Initially, it was going to be a “town center” concept with residential and retail that would be connected to the Cold Spring light rail station. Now the project hinges on 80,000 square feet of office space.

“It’s taken an inordinate amount of time to get to this point,” said Dan Galluzzo, president of Aquity LLC.

On Thursday, Galluzzo and architect Donald Kann, president of Kann Partners, appeared before the Baltimore Urban Design and Review Panel to discuss current plans for the development. These discussions are still happening nearly two years after the first plans were discussed with the panel— about three years since the developers started the project.

One of the major hurdles the development overcame followed the acquisition of the land overlooking Jones Falls by Aquity LLC and the Landex Cos. As the developers started their plans they discovered Baltimore Gas & Electric intended to build a substation on adjacent land. The idea of residential units featuring a view of electrical equipment was a non-starter.

At that point the developers worked with BGE and the city in a land swap that allowed the energy company to build the substation out of sight of the proposed development.

“Dan and Donald moved a mountain. When you move BGE you’ve moved a mountain,” said Lisa Krick, marking specialist for Kann Partners and project manager for Aquity LLC.

Then came the shifting of the project’s orientation. A doctors’ group specializing in pulmonary care expressed a desire to relocate at the proposed Cold Spring development. Initially, the group was being steered toward a project with more office space in Towson. But after finding out about the city project, the physician’s group made it clear that is where they wanted to be located.

There was just one problem. The Cold Spring development didn’t have the office space necessary to accommodate the practice. So the designers went back to the drawing board and came up with a concept that included 80,000 square feet of office space. The doctors’ group has committed to taking half that space. The other half is expected to attract other medical uses that will want to be near the practice.

Krick admitted the demand for office space caught the group off-guard, especially because the office market in the Baltimore metro area has been fairly soft since the 2008 economic collapse.

“We were actually surprised by the office aspect,” she said.

Despite the fact the development has been in the works for quite a while, the project is still in the early stages of the process. The review panel hasn’t even been presented with schematic level plans for the project.

Judging from comments made by the panelists, which ranged from concerns about massing to worries the project’s connection to the light rail station was too tenuous, it still has a ways to go before breaking ground can even be considered.

“You wish that it was a [transit-oriented development] that was serving more than itself,” panelist Gary Bowden said.

But Galluzzo said the project has the momentum it needs to become more than just a concept. The development, which still includes residential units and 30,000 square feet of retail, has even received a commitment from Baltimore Coffee and Tea Co. to open its first city location at the development.

“I think we’re well on our way with this thing. Its time has come,” he told the panel.