City gives design go-ahead to mixed use development on former PEMCO site

The city’s design panel on Thursday approved a master plan for a large mixed use development in East Baltimore opposite the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

The proposal by developer MCB Real Estate LLC calls for two buildings along Eastern Avenue: a six-story apartment building, with ground floor retail and an interior courtyard, and a smaller, one-story shoppping structure, with a large 250-spot parking lot farther east. If market demand is strong, MCB could create a taller mixed-use site in place of the smaller building.

Farther south in the site, the developer plans an 85,000-square foot building for an anchor tenant, such as a supermarket or pharmacy, and a hotel. A 110-spot parking lot allows for additional development.

The project would be built in phases, which have not yet been finalized, said project manager Caroline Paff. A minimum $50 million investment is expected.

Earlier plans drew criticism from members of the Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel, who said the proposal was too suburban. On Thursday members praised changes introduced to the design by architect Brown Craig Turner.

“You’ve risen to the challenge of making this both urban and suburban at the same time,” said panelist Judith Meany.

Planning Director Thomas Stosur said he is still concerned that a proposed five-lane boulevard in the center of the development is too wide and unfriendly to pedestrians.

The development, on a 20-acre industrial site that is the former home of glass and porcelain manufacturer PEMCO Corp., must get sign-off from the city’s Department of Transportation, as well as the City Council and state and federal environmental agencies.

Al Barry of AB Associates, a representative for the development team, said the group hopes to receive City Council approval for Planned Unit Development legislation this fall, allowing work to begin on utilities in about 12 months. Building construction would follow shortly after, he said.

Environmental clean-up is expected to cost about $3 million, Barry said.

Baltimore-based MCB purchased the 5601 Eastern Ave. property for $3 million in April. The firm, which has a portfolio of retail, industrial and office developments in 11 states, also owns Eastpoint Mall.

nsherman@baltsun.com

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