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REAL ESTATE INSIDER

Valery pitches new vision for revitalization of West Baltimore

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An aerial photo identifies the neighborhoods envisioned for a “Station West” revitalization project in West Baltimore. (Courtesy of Ernst Valery Investment Corp.)

Ernst Valery, president of Ernst Valery Investment Corp., envisions a time when the downtrodden area surrounding the West Baltimore MARC station is a vibrant mixed-use community.

Currently he’s making a presentation for a project dubbed Station West trying to garner buy-in from area institutions, developers and the city. Using the renaissance in Baltimore’s Station North as a guide, Valery hopes to bring new development to a section of the city that has struggled crime, poverty and disinvestment.

“In five years things will start to happen (at Station West). By the eighth year the change will be noticeable,” Valery said.

Design principles in the presentation call for ground-floor retail, “sensitive infill,” including new rowhomes with materials that match existing neighborhoods, and a mix of multifamily housing including units for seniors.

The “gateway district” in Valery’s presentation calls for redevelopment of more than a dozen city blocks plagued by vacant properties, such neighborhoods as Midtown Edmondson, Rosemont, Franklin Square and Harlem Park. A major portion of the plan is to use city programs such as Vacants to Value to try and leverage private investment.

Valery envisions working with other medium-sized developers on projects in the district. He said he hopes to involve Seawall Development, which has garnered a reputation as a community-friendly builder. Valery moderated a panel earlier this month that Thibault Manekin, one of Seawall’s founders, served on, and Station West was discussed during the session.

In the past Valery has made no bones about being enticed by projects in Baltimore with solid connections to Washington via rail. In the Station North community Valery’s company is building the $25 million Nelson Kohl apartments across Lanvale Street from Penn Station.

The MARC station in West Baltimore provides a direct link to Union Station in Washington, which could make the area an attractive bedroom community for workers in D.C. priced out of that market. But the area will have to overcome a reputation for crime and violence if it’s going to attract the level of investment needed to revive.

Valery has also made it clear he wants to avoid gentrifying the neighborhoods surrounding the West Baltimore MARC Station. The presentation, while short on exact details, sets goals of avoiding displacement, maintaining housing affordability and increasing housing diversity as goals in the program.

At the moment Valery’s goal is to get developers, Baltimore Housing and institutions such as Bon Secours and Coppin State University to sit down and hash out a detailed plan for reinvesting in the area.

“All the people should be at the table talking about how to make this happen,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article used an incorrect name for the proposed Station West development. 

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