The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) made progress in its effort to help revitalize Baltimore's Westside neighborhood when it gained approval Jan. 29 to move forward on a plan to redevelop two UMB-owned historic buildings and adjacent properties near the campus.
UMB officials presented a plan to the Finance Committee of the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland for the former Drovers & Mechanics National Bank building, the former Sons of Italy building, and two adjacent parking lots. The committee voted to recommend the plan to the full board, which is expected to consider the measure at a future meeting.
UMB is seeking approval to enter into a 75-year ground lease with an affiliate of Focus Development, LLC, and Kinsley Equities III, LP. As the developer, the affiliate proposes rental housing and related amenities, compatible retail and office uses, and parking. The ground lease will prohibit uses such as adult entertainment, gambling, the sale of alcoholic beverages except in connection with operation of a restaurant with table service, or any other use that is inconsistent with the University’s mission.
The development site consists of .82 acres and includes the two historic buildings, both unoccupied, and a vacant lot and a surface parking lot. The parking lot is currently used for UMB staff. The former Drovers & Mechanics National Bank building, shown below in the photo on the right, is located at 100 N. Eutaw St. The former Sons of Italy building, shown in the photo on the left, is at 410-412 W. Fayette St.
The boundaries of the site are North Paca Street, West Fayette Street, North Eutaw Street, and Marion Street. It's just a block from Lexington Market. Other neighbors include the Hippodrome and Everyman theaters, and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.
“The University president has been working with the mayor of Baltimore City over the last two and a half years on the redevelopment of the city’s Westside. The proposed development of this University property will improve almost an entire city block in the Westside and enhance the campus,” according to a statement by UMB to the committee.
The developer responded to the University’s request for proposal structured as a ground lease. The provisions include an option for the developer to purchase the underlying fee interest in the property, subject to terms and various necessary approvals. The University would maintain ownership of the land.
UMB would realize an annual ground rent of $90,000 to commence upon certificate of occupancy but no later than 42 months after execution of the ground lease.
In order to maintain the historic character of the neighborhood, the plan calls for the buildings to be renovated, not razed.
Although neither building is registered with the National Register of Historic Places, the Maryland Historical Trust designated the entire Drovers & Mechanics National Bank building and the original portion (the front 40 feet) of the Sons of Italy building as "contributing buildings to be preserved."
The developer would be required to obtain necessary approvals from the Maryland Historic Trust as well as other required permits and licenses prior to the start of development. Construction is expected to begin within 18 months of the lease’s execution and be substantially complete within 36 months of the lease execution.
"I am committed to continuing my work with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as co-chair of the UniverCity Partnership and in my role as chair of the board of the Downtown Partnership to redevelop Baltimore's downtown and, very specifically, the Westside areas that touch our campus," said UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, during his 2014 State of the University address.
"I have a vision of UMB as an easily recognizable and vibrant urban university surrounded by a redeveloped and revitalized Baltimore City," he said.