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Old Town Mall. (File)

Developers plan on making Old Town a ‘highlight’

The development team working on a proposed overhaul of the Old Town Mall and former Somerset Homes sites envisions turning a rundown symbol of urban decay into one of Baltimore’s “highlights.”

The New Old Town Team, which includes Beatty Development Group, Henson Development Co., Commercial Development Group and Mission First Housing Development Corp., submitted the only viable response to a Baltimore Development Corp. request for proposal issued in April 2014.

The New Old Town Team is still working on plans that are expected to be presented to the city in March. Daniel P. Henson III, of Henson Development Co., couldn’t discuss the details about what is being planned, but said the team has big ideas.

“We presented a plan, that plan would’ve been fine for everybody … we’ve put together a team of some pretty talented developers, all of whom are local, and we decided that we wanted to make that one of the highlights of the city,” Henson said.

The city announced in February that the New Old Town Team’s plans for mixed-use redevelopment was the only viable option and that it would take about six months to review the plans. Nearly six months after that announcement, the proposal is still being pieced together, but Henson asked for patience.

“Give us a little time to put together what is a very complicated plan that involves a lot of players and a lot of moving pieces,” he said.

Revitalizing the Old Town Mall would be a major accomplishment for the city. The historic shopping district is slowly decaying and is a magnet for drug activity. Last year the state announced it had awarded Baltimore $300,000 to demolish much of the rundown site.

Supporters of redeveloping the area believe it could serve as a bridge between downtown and Johns Hopkins Medical Campus once the area is revitalized with new construction. But plans to redevelop Old Town have fallen through in the past, and some planners have expressed concern about the viability of the site unless the elevated portions of Interstate 83 are torn down.