By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun
9:48 PM EDT, October 17, 2011
Lowe's, the national home improvement chain, has pulled out as an anchor of the proposed 25th Street Station, a retail and housing development in Remington that won Baltimore City approval nearly a year ago but has been stalled by court challenges.
"This site is currently not a site Lowe's is pursuing for a new store," Stacey C. Lentz, a spokeswoman for Lowe's Cos. Inc., said in an email Monday.
The retailer, which said Monday that it was closing several stores — none of them in Maryland — and slowing its national expansion, decided several weeks ago to drop the Baltimore site, Lentz said.
She said the decision was unrelated to Monday's store closing announcement.
A lawyer for the developer said the Remington project would move ahead without Lowe's.
Jon Laria, who represents Rick Walker of W.V. Urban Developments LLC, said that his client planned to redevelop the current site of Anderson Automotive with apartments as well as a Walmart and other shops.
"We're actively working to figure out a plan that will work," Laria said. "It would be great to have Lowe's, but … Lowe's is not the make-or-break tenant for the project. The project is not in jeopardy as a result of [Lowe's] decision."
The project's other major retail anchor, Walmart, still plans to open a store at 25th Street Station, Walmart said Monday.
"We remain focused on delivering quality jobs and affordable groceries via our planned Remington store," Steve Restivo, a Walmart spokesman, said in an email.
Lowe's announced Monday that it planned to close 20 underperforming stores in 15 states. The retailer also said it would cut the number of new store openings in half starting next year, with plans for 10 to 15 stores per year instead of 30.
Baltimore's City Council granted final approval last November for the 25th Street Station project.
Walker, of W.V. Urban Developments, unveiled plans for the $65 million mixed-use project in November 2009. At the time, he intended to build the city's first Lowe's home improvement store, as well as a supermarket, 32,000 square feet of specialty shops, and up to 60 apartments on 11 acres roughly bounded by 25th Street to the north, Maryland Avenue to the east, 24th Street to the south and the CSX rail line to the west.
Anderson Automotive, one of the 1,100 dealerships whose franchises were not renewed by General Motors Co. in 2009 as part of the automaker's bankruptcy, has operated at the site since the mid-1950s. The property, owned by Bruce Mortimer of Anderson, is under contract to Walker, Laria said.
The project has faced stiff opposition from some neighbors and two lawsuits have challenged the city-approved zoning change that allowed construction to move forward, Laria said.
Both suits were dismissed in Baltimore Circuit Court, but the plaintiffs have appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Hearings on both cases are scheduled for the end of January.
Brendan Coyne, a Charles Village resident and a plaintiff in one of the cases, called Lowe's decision to pull out of the project welcome news — especially, he said, "if it causes folks to rethink 25th Street Station."
"This project was never right for the neighborhood," said Coyne, who is also president of Bmore Local, a group that pushes for a community-oriented approach to city redevelopment.
Laria called the lawsuits "frivolous" and blamed them for stalling a project that has been supported by many in the neighborhood and city who "would like to shop in their neighborhood, would like to stay in the city and sure as heck don't want a vacant car dealership."
"We're still doing design, construction, bidding," Laria said. "The problem is we are awaiting the outcome of … litigation."
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