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The Chesapeake Restaurant on the northeast corner of North Charles Street and East Lanvale Street near where developers hope to build an eight-story apartment building. (File photo)

Developer wants to keep artists in Station North

A new market-rate apartment building planned for a parking lot on East Lanvale Street in Station North is taking a unique approach to its design.

Rough plans for the eight-story building were presented to the Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel on Thursday, but the developer, SA+A Development, and the architect, LSC Design, said they intend to give the surrounding community a large role in determining what the product will look like.

“Part of development, in my opinion, is making something that comes from the community as well, and it’s not just an economic thing: ‘How do I make money and pack people in?’ — it’s not just a developer-imposed [project],” said Ernst Valery, president of SA+A Development and EVI Equity.

The project, including land acquisition, is expected to cost more than $20 million. It will provide 103 apartments, a Mike & Honey Market on the first floor along with gallery space. Rough plans for the building involve a contextual contemporary design, and it will have an interesting quirk in that it will be built with what amounts to a tunnel at the base of the building over Love Grove Street to maintain access to a water main.

If all goes as planned, construction on the building will begin this fall and will be finished in early 2017.

Station North has experienced significant investment in recent years. SA+A also redeveloped The Chesapeake building, at a cost of about $4.5 million, at the northeast corner of Lanvale and Charles streets, which is home to the Pen & Quill restaurant. The Charles Theatre and a handful of eateries also operate on that block.

About a block to north, a $19 million renovation converting a former theater building named The Centre into a 67,000-square-foot arts and innovation center is nearing completion. The $6.5 million renovation of a historic car dealership into the mixed-use Motor House development has started a few blocks away on North Avenue.

Valery said he has seen projects where a development company rams its vision for a building down the throat of a community, and that those projects have failed. He said his vision of development is to create healthy and sustainable communities that last.

Despite the heavy emphasis on community, Valery hopes the project will poach young professionals from Washington, D.C., who like urban living but can’t afford rent in the capital. The building’s proximity to Penn Station and rent prices at about $2.20 per square foot should make the units an attractive option for that demographic.

Valery also said that developers want to make the project affordable for artists and don’t want to chase them out of the Station North as that section of the city begins to take off. He used development patterns in New York City as an example of what he wants to try and avoid.

“A lot of times in New York, artists create a community and it’s just so yuppies can take it over,” Valery said with a laugh. “Our thing is that artists created this community they should be there in the future, and the people that live there — black, white, rich, poor, creative-minded people and conservative minded people, they all should be there too when the entire story is told about this community.”


About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.