Developer leaves 25th Street Station

The developer behind the controversial shopping center that would have brought a Walmart to Remington has dropped the project.

WV Urban Developments project manager Caroline Paff released a statement Tuesday saying the developer is no longer planning to redevelop the Anderson Automotive site at 25th and Howard streets.

"WV Urban Developments is no longer pursuing its 25th Street Station project," the statement reads. "As you are well aware, the project has been the target of numerous appeals and filings by opponents, which have delayed the project for years."

The project has been a lightning rod for criticism in the community since the City Council approved the original planned unit development in 2010.

While some welcomed the opportunity to bring a Walmart with its low prices and jobs to the central part of the city, others criticized the retailer's involvement, citing its reputation for paying low wages and concerns that a big-box store would harm smaller stores in the area.

Walmart remains interested in the project and the site, said Amanda Henneberg, a spokesman for the retailer, in a statement issued Tuesday. The company has said its store would bring quality jobs to the area.

The departure of WV Urban Developments could open the door for Seawall Development Co. to take over the project, said City Councilman Carl Stokes, who represents the area.

Seawall is "absolutely" interested in the property, said Evan Morville, a partner in the firm.

Seawall has been a major developer in the area with its planned Remington Row project and redevelopment of several former mills as apartments aimed at young teachers.

It is not clear whether Seawall has been in talks with the property owner, Bruce Mortimer, president of Anderson Automotive Group.

WV Urban Developments and Mortimer have feuded over the project. Mortimer started to pull out because the developer missed a key deadline to complete a purchase agreement with Walmart Real Estate Business Trust, in which Walmart would commit to purchasing a portion of the properties on the site.

Mortimer filed legal action asking a Baltimore circuit judge to declare the pending sale of the 11-acre site terminated, and talked of turning the project over to Seawall. But Mortimer and WV Urban worked out an agreement to extend the deadline.

Stokes said that deadline, too, has passed; Mortimer declined to comment.

WV Urban's withdrawal comes after the developer cleared a major hurdle for the project — winning the blessing of the city's Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel in October.

While supportive of the project, Stokes remains critical of the city Planning Department's approval of what the developer called minor amendments to the planned unit development despite community opposition to the proposed changes, including plans to tear down a stone church that residents say is historic.

In her statement, Paff said that the problems "have contributed to an environment sufficiently uncertain that the relevant parties are unable to reach the agreements necessary for WV to continue."

She declined to elaborate, and Jon Laria, the local attorney for WV Urban Developments, would not comment.

"It's been a developer's nightmare, and it's giving our city a bad reputation," said Judith Kunst, former president of the Greater Remington Improvement Association, who served on a community advisory committee to WV Urban. "We need jobs. We need retail."

Joan Floyd, president of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance and a longtime critic of the project and its traffic implications, declined to comment, saying she knew nothing about WV Urban's departure.

Blaine Carvalho, the current GRIA president, could not be reached for comment.

Benn Ray, owner of Atomic Books in Hampden and a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits against the project that was dismissed for lack of legal standing, said he is pleased that WV Urban is out.

Ray, president of the Hampden Village Merchants Association, said he would not be opposed to Seawall coming in, but the company would be wasting goodwill it has engendered in the community if it insists on "shoving a big-box store down our throats."

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