Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Ground Up

The Daily Record's real estate blog

Fells Point apartment plan delayed by community objections

Brendan Chasen, of Chasen Construction & Development, discusses the proposed apartment at 509 S. Washington St. with Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation. (The Daily Record/Adam Bednar)

Brendan Chasen, of Chasen Construction & Development, discusses the proposed apartment building at 509 S. Washington St. with Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation. (The Daily Record/Adam Bednar)

Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation tabled a decision on the design of a proposed apartment building in Fells Point after several neighbors complained about the project.

Chasen Construction & Development proposes building a five-story building with ground floor parking on the currently vacant lot at 509 S. Washington St., which the developer purchased last year. Commission staff recommended approval of plans, provided design concerns regarding massing were addressed.

But neighbors next to the project told the commission they had only found out about the proposal, despite the commission reviewing the design earlier this year, on Monday night. Objections to the building included concerns ranging from parking to the size of the building.

“It’s really hit a nerve the project has gone this far and the community has not been involved,” Ben Cole, a neighbor said, adding, “I’m pro-development.”

The building as proposed is allowed under the zoning governing the lot and fits within the guidelines for the historic district governing development in that part of the city.

Architect H. Justin Seto, of Seto Architects, expressed his dismay with community protests. Retail businesses in Baltimore are struggling, he said, because suburban residents aren’t shopping and eating in the city. But neighbors are objecting to a project that would bring more residents to support businesses.

“When we try to increase the density of the city, everyone is opposing (us),” Seto told commissioners.

Brendan Chasen, of Chasen Construction & Development, portrayed neighbor’s concerns as NIMBY (not in my backyard) objections. The building is providing parking even though it’s not required to and removing floors from the building would throw off the pro-forma analysis of financial returns of the development.

“They just don’t want multifamily,” Chasen said.

Commissioner Laura Penza made the motion to table the decision to give more time for outreach. But she said the commission may want to consider ways to ensure residents are aware of future hearings. Currently it’s up to neighborhood associations to make sure residents are aware of development proposals and relevant hearings.

“We certainly can’t ask developers to go door to door. That’s not their task here,” Penza said.

Nate Pretl, of land use consultant firm AB Associates, said the developer met with the Fells Prospect Community Associations development committee twice, and a third meeting was canceled.

Following Tuesday’s hearing, Pretl spoke with residents who objected to the project about more community outreach. He said he hopes to have the building’s design back before the commission next month.

To purchase a reprint of this article, contact reprints@thedailyrecord.com.

One comment

  1. STEPHEN BROACHE

    Maybe it’s time to require posting of signage with renderings so that neighbors can see what’s proposed before meetings are held. Planning staff can referee the meetings but there wouldn’t be the surprise factor.

    This could be done with good online presentation of the info. Good means that the info is not lost in the maze of the City’s web site. Maybe a separate post for each project on a pages that says gathers all info on “what are people planning to build?”