A Light Street parking lot moved a step closer to redevelopment Thursday, as the board of the Baltimore Development Corp. backed the use of $28 million in parking revenue bonds to pay for a garage on the site.
The financing was sought by Virginia-based Metropolitan Partnership Ltd., which officials said has formed a joint venture with the owners of the long-dormant One Light Street parcels.
Metropolitan is the developer behind the apartment conversion of 10 Light Street, the iconic green-and gold-topped Art Deco building across the street where it plans to open more than 400 apartments next year.
The company is working on a plan for the One Light Street parcels that includes 362 apartments, 10,000 square feet of retail and a roughly 646-space parking garage, according to BDC officials.
The site, where the Southern Hotel stood before being demolished in 2000 for a never-built office, hotel and garage development, has seen proposals come and go for years, but officials said Metropolitan's involvement could make the difference.
“It’s Cary Euwer’s involvement that will ensure that One Light Street actually happens,” said BDC executive vice president Kim Clark, referring to Metropolitan’s founder, who also worked on the 250 W. Pratt Street tower in the 1980s.
The newest proposal, which city officials said could cost nearly $110 million, is an expanded version of plans that the city’s design review panel signed off on last year.
Developer J. Joseph Clarke, who manages the properties on behalf of owner Capital Guidance and presented those plans to the city, said Metropolitan’s focus is the garage, which would have automated parking, go partially underground and serve residents of both apartment buildings.
Representatives of Capital Guidance, a private global investment firm, did not respond to a request for comment. 10 Light Street is expected to open next spring, BDC officials said.
The BDC board offered unanimous support for using the bonds for the proposed Metropolitan Baltimore LLC project, provided that the city receive assurances that the garage and ground-floor retail will go forward if the city issues the bonds, even if other parts of the project stall. The garage would be privately owned and operated upon completion, through an arrangement with the city, said Colin Tarbert, deputy mayor of economic and neighborhood development.
If the owner cannot pay the debt service on the bonds, the city would assume control of it, said Pete Little, executive director of the Parking Authority of Baltimore City.
Downtown Partnership President Kirby Fowler, to whom Metropolitan referred questions about the project, has expressed impatience in the past with the lack of progress on the site. Thursday, he described Metropolitan's joint venture and current plans for the site as “the first real glimmer of hope I’ve seen ... in 20-plus years.”
The site, which qualifies for a 15-year property tax credit offered to apartment developers, would yield $28.7 million in taxes, BDC economic development officer Alex Hutchinson said Thursday. The redevelopment also is expected to create 982 construction jobs, 30 permanent positions and bring more than 540 residents to the downtown.
As of January this year, more than 1,100 apartments were in construction, with another 1,890 in planning, according to the organization. A Downtown Partnership study estimated a demand for 5,800 units in the downtown through 2017.
Clarke, president of J.J. Clarke Enterprises Inc. and the husband of City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, said the market remains strong for apartments.
“We certainly are aware of other places that are being developed, but we’re also aware that across the country, downtown spaces like ours are being developed for multi-family residential [use],” he said. Right now, he added, the project is being developed “piece by piece.”