A slim, angular apartment tower rising 30 stories above Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at Baltimore Street could become the newest addition to the University of Maryland, Baltimore's West Side BioPark.
University President Jay Perman unveiled the idea for the roughly 300-unit building after a speech Thursday that touted the park's growth as a model for economic development.
The designs are preliminary and the university is talking with potential developers about constructing the building, which would offer market-rate apartments.
The proposed tower, which repeats the brick-and-glass motif of the university's other buildings, comes amid a construction boom that already has added four major buildings to the west side, with more underway. A $200 million Proton Center is expected to open to patients in about 18 months, and construction of a $305 million health sciences facility started last fall, with completion scheduled for 2017.
The newest parts of the university's plan add mixed-use development to a BioPark once just 5 acres in size and envisioned solely for biomedical research. The footprint of the BioPark now extends to 12 acres, or roughly 2 million square feet.
"I have a vision of the University of Maryland as an easily recognizable and vibrant urban university surrounded by a redeveloped and revitalized Baltimore City," Perman said in his State of the University speech delivered at the School of Nursing before an audience of roughly 450.
Perman, who chairs the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and co-chairs a city task force focused on economic development in the city's west side, said he is committed to the partnership.
"We must make our neighborhood better if we are to continue to attract the faculty, staff and students we want," he said. "I believe that the future of our university and our community are linked — as one succeeds, so does the other."
In his speech, Perman said the university intends to renovate three historic buildings on Lexington and Greene streets and build a child care center in a yet-to-be-determined location. It will tear down Fayette Street's Walter P. Carter Center, which previously housed a public psychiatric hospital that closed in 2009.
This summer, it also will seek development proposals for almost a square block of properties bounded by North Eutaw, Fayette, Paca and Marion streets.
The business entity in charge of the BioPark, the UMB Health Sciences Research Park Corp., is in negotiations with a developer about building a hotel, expected to serve patients coming to the new Proton Center for treatment. Jim Hughes, UMB's vice president and chief enterprise and economic development officer, declined to name the developer or say how many companies submitted bids. The hope is to open the hotel in the spring of 2016, he said.
Hughes said the projects in the area represent about $400 million in private funding. The BioPark is 100 percent leased, with 35 private tenants and about 600 employees, Perman said.
"The way it works is it's very market-driven. … We can come up with fancy drawings and all, but at the end of the day it's private developers coming in," Hughes said. "What we're trying to do is have a compelling story to bring in the private development."
Baltimore architectural firm Ayers Saint Gross, which crafted the BioPark's master plan, also did the early designs for the residential tower.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun