"The Crittenton site doesn't exist in a vacuum," said Sharon Price, who lives on Elm Avenue and whose picturesque house, The Elm, is a venue for meetings, weddings and other events.

"We're bounded by everything," Price said.

To the north is 32nd Street, with 29 existing townhouses. There's not enough parking on 32nd, a one way street northbound, she said.

To the south is Mill Road, a small street with no sidewalks, and the Mill Centre, she said.

To the east, on Crittenton Street, are another 22 townhouses, and her house, which is the only residential property in the Brick Hill stretch of Elm Avenue, she said.

Directly across from the development site are the machine shop and book bindery, both there for decades and both with loading docks for delivery trucks that roll in early in the morning, Price said.

The six townhouses that Brooks wants to build fronting Elm Avenue would face the machine shop and the bindery with its tall chimney, she said.

Price counts 129 businesses and 145 residences in the two-block area around the historic site, and thinks Brooks' project would compound an already bad traffic and parking problem.

"I don't see this project succeeding," said Price, who serves on a community steering committee. "I just don't see this as a good fit."

"I understand the developer's perspective, but if you do too much density, you change the way of life in this neighborhood," said Shawn McRaney, an artist and museum exhibits specialist who can see the site from his kitchen window. He too serves on the steering committee of residents and business owners.

Bert Smith, a retired graphics design professor at the University of Baltimore, who lives in the 3200 block of Chestnut Avenue, said he favors "adaptive reuse" of the Crittenton site, much as Mount Vernon Mills was converted to Mill Centre without new construction.

"Save the buildings and make them viable," Smith said.

"We would like something to become of it, but not the idea of three-story townhouses," said 32nd Street resident Danny Camac.

Price said she would like the Maryland Historical Trust to hold public meetings about the easement, so that residents can have their say.

City landmark designation by the city would give the trust "a trigger to reach out to the community," she said.

But Brooks argued, "It's really more up to CHAP and the Maryland Historical Trust than it is to me or the residents."

Ken Gelbard, owner and manager of the Mill Centre, said he supports Brooks' plan for the property, if only because he fears that the site would otherwise continue to sit abandoned and neglected.

"I'm definitely in the minority. My concern is that if we don't go with some plan like that, some bottom-feeder will buy it, the bank will want to get rid of it and the property will deteriorate further," he said.

Ideally, Gelbard said, "I support the state making it into a park, but that ain't going to happen."