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Apartments planned for Della Notte site

The exterior of the former Della Notte restaurant in Little Italy, prior to an auction of the restaurant's contents held after closing in 2013.
The exterior of the former Della Notte restaurant in Little Italy, prior to an auction of the restaurant's contents held after closing in 2013. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

A Baltimore development firm is proposing to build a 16-story apartment tower on the site of the former Della Notte restaurant in Little Italy

Doug Schmidt, principal at Workshop Development Inc., said the firm is looking at building a tower with roughly 240 apartments and about 7,000-square feet of retail on the ground floor. The firm, with architect Hord Coplan Macht, is slated to present designs to the city next week for the project, located at 801 Eastern Ave.

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"We still have a lot of details that we're finishing up," said Schmidt, adding that final height and number of residences remain subject to discussion.

The project would have at least one parking spot per residence inside the building, he said.

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Little Italy Community Association President Giovanna Blattermann, whose family owns nearby Cafe Gia, said pedestrians en route from the Inner Harbor to Harbor East too often bypass Little Italy, turned off in part by the barren block of President Street.

"It's screaming to be developed," Blattermann said. "I think this is a boost for all the business in our community and I'm hoping it will entice and encourage other businesses — other than food — to start to open up."

The developer presented the plans at a meeting Tuesday of the Little Italy Property Owners Association attended by about 50 people, said P.J. O'Neill, president of the association. Workshop Development has agreed to meet regularly with residents as the proposal works to obtain traffic, zoning and design approvals, he said.

"Even residents that proposed different concerns over the project are excited about the development," O'Neill said.

Lifelong Little Italy resident Mary Ann Campanella said she is worried about the building's height and how an influx of residents would affect traffic at an already busy corner.

"President Street from Fleet to Pratt is the biggest bottleneck in the City of Baltimore," she said. "You're in an apartment building, you've got to come and go. That's going to cause how much more traffic?"

Della Notte, a city landmark for its round entry, moon sign and extensive wine list, closed in 2013. The one-story building was previously a café and bakery known as DiVivo's.

Schmidt said he approached Della Notte about buying the site shortly after the restaurant closed. The firm expects to purchase the property this spring, with a timeline that could allow the building to open in 2017, he said. He declined to provide a cost estimate, saying it is too early in the process.

"We really think it's a premier site," he said.

Workshop Development's principals also were involved in the Bagby furniture building, Hyatt Place Baltimore/Inner Harbor and Shops at Canton Crossing. This will be their first residential project.

This post has been updated with comments from P.J. O'Neill and Mary Ann Campanella.

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