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UB moves forward with ‘transformative’ midtown project

A rendering of a 2.35-acre development at the corner of Maryland Avenue and Oliver Street in midtown Baltimore that will feature two substantial buildings to activate the midtown area with retail space and residential units. (Photo courtesy of BCT Design Group)

UB moves forward with ‘transformative’ midtown project

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The University of Baltimore named Zahlco as the intended developer of a university-owned 2.35-acre site that will include two substantial buildings to activate the midtown area with retail, residential units, amenities and more.

One of the project’s buildings at the corner of Maryland Avenue and Oliver Street will offer 30,000 square feet of street-level retail, with several floors above for 235 market-rate, multifamily apartments and dedicated indoor and outdoor amenity space on the upper levels.

This building will adapt, transform and build upon an existing concrete structure — it is the former home of a U.S. Postal Service vehicle maintenance location — with the adaptive reuse providing a safer, more environmentally responsible development than the alternative of demolition.

The other building will involve the construction of a 350-unit multi-family high-rise and a new parking garage, both overlooking the Jones Falls Expressway. This development will add a landmark to the university’s presence in midtown, while establishing a more attractive element to the urban fabric on and around the adjacent Penn Station property, as well as improved walkability for pedestrians and commuters.

The agreement enables Baltimore-based Zahlco to begin discussions on design proposals with the city’s planning department and for preliminary financing arrangements. As the developer’s work progresses, the university will pursue the needed approvals by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and the Maryland Board of Public Works, with the objective of reaching a proposed ground-lease agreement with Zahlco in fall 2023 that authorizes development of the property.

“This project, conceptualized by the Zahlco team and vetted by the university’s experts in consultation with the USM, represents a breakthrough in how we think about the center of the city,” University of Baltimore President Kurt L. Schmoke said. “From the time of our announcement last summer seeking proposals, even looking back to when we first understood the importance of this parcel some years ago, the top priority has been about bringing together some of the best that central Baltimore has to offer. That’s Penn Station, the retail along Maryland Avenue and Charles Street, MICA, Mt. Vernon, Bolton Hill, and, of course, the University of Baltimore. … Now, with this project, we have the gateway that brings all of it together. To put it simply, this is transformative.”

Zahlco has been the lead developer on a variety of well-known retail and residential projects across the city and in other communities. The team assembled by Zahlco for the UB-owned parcel brings a strong track record to the project.

CEO Yonah Zahler said the project is intended to energize the site and the surrounding neighborhood, leading with a strong, mixed-use, transit-oriented development that emphasizes its prominent location amidst higher-education institutions, arts and cultural touchstones and well-established neighborhoods.

It will reinforce the walkability of midtown Baltimore, while the retail mix will focus on items and services that both residents and commuters will find useful. The ongoing renovation of the train station is synergistic with the goals of this development.

Zahlco is passionate about the urban lifestyle, creating buildings that connect the dots of city life — work, home and play — bringing in local artists, service providers and retailers to infuse energy and activity into the property, connecting residents with each other and the surrounding area.

Partnering with Zahlco on this project is Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures, a minority- and women-owned business whose principal is Dr. Gina Merritt.

The University of Baltimore is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the College of Public Affairs, the Merrick School of Business, The University of Baltimore School of Law and the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences.

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