Developer negotiating to buy Pepsi site

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Himmelrich Associates is in negotiations with PepsiCo to purchase a Pepsi distribution site in Woodberry, and wants to redevelop it as a mixed-use residential and retail complex anchored by a supermarket, a consultant to developer Sam Himmelrich Jr. said Wednesday.

Himmelrich, who owns the Mount Washington Mill shopping center on Smith Avenue and the Meadow Mill retail center on Clipper Park Road, hopes to close this week on the acquisition of the Pepsi building, 1650 Union Ave., said his land use consultant, Al Barry, of AB Associates.

"Let's just say it's in process," Barry said.

Barry also confirmed that Himmelrich is in discussions with the supermarket chain Harris Teeter to anchor the development, and that he hopes to convince Baltimore City to rezone the property from industrial to a Transit-Oriented Development that would allow for mixed use. The City Council already is in the process of comprehensive rezoning citywide. Councilman Nick Mosby, who represents the area around the Pepsi site, could not be reached for comment.

Under the terms of the sale being negotiated, PepsiCo would sell the 12.5-acre property to Himmelrich Associates and lease it back for at least a year while looking for a new location, Barry said. He said he did not know whether PepsiCo wants to stay in Baltimore.

The lease-back period could be extended beyond a year under the terms of the agreement being negotiated, Barry said.

PepsiCo officials could not be reached for comment.

Himmelrich met privately Monday with representatives of community groups in Hampden, Woodberry and Medfield to give them broad outlines of his plan, but told them he had a confidentiality agreement with PepsiCo not to reveal details of his plans until after the sale went through. However, the plans have since come to light after Benn Ray, president of the Hampden Village Merchants Association, posted brief messages about the negotiations.

Ray, who was not invited to the meeting with community representatives, said that two sources with knowledge of the meeting told him about the plans, and he decided to post an announcement online.

"My feeling is (that) sitting on this information and not sharing it with members of my association does nothing to help our members and only helps enable the deal go through before anyone knows what's happening — and given the sheer vastness of this proposed development, the community should know what's happening," Ray said in an email Wednesday.

Several hours after Ray announced the negotiations on Facebook, Barry confirmed the plans.

Himmelrich "will be exploring potential redevelopment options, including Transit-Oriented Development mixed use, if and when Pepsi leaves," Barry said.

Barry also said that Himmelrich wants to get on the agendas of the Woodberry Community Association, the Hampden Community Council, the Hampden Village Merchants Association and the Medfield Community Association within the next month or at their next meetings, so that he can brief area community leaders on his plans.

Former Medfield association president Richard Kaminski, who attended the meeting of community leaders, said he supports the idea of a mixed-use development in the area.

"It is a definite positive to know that if and when Pepsivacates, Sam Himmelrichwill betaking the reigns of developing the Pepsi site," Kaminski said in an email Wednesday. "He has already done a great job with the neighboring property, Meadow Mill. Hopefully,the sitewillmove from industrial designationto mixed-usedesignation to includeoffice, retail and apartments.

Barry said the property is no longer designated as being in a flood plain, because the Federal Emergency Management Agency determined last month that a flood wall around the site appears to be working. Barry said the building has not flooded, at least in recent years.

Ray said in an interview he wants to study Himmelrich's plans closely because of the size of the site and the scale and magnitude of the plans.

"I know it's very large," Ray said. "That is a big box development by definition."

"I am aware that concepts are developing regarding the Pepsi property, but we are still bound by confidential agreements," Woodberry Community Association Acting President Sheri Higgins said in an email.

Hampden Community Council representatives could not be reached for comment.

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