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The developers behind plans to redevelop Northwood Plaza shopping center at Loch Raven Boulevard and Havenwood Road are seeking a zoning change to pave the way for the $50 million project.
The developers behind plans to redevelop Northwood Plaza shopping center at Loch Raven Boulevard and Havenwood Road are seeking a zoning change to pave the way for the $50 million project. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

Developers planning to revamp Northwood Plaza Shopping Center are moving forward with the $50 million project near Morgan State University with a requested change to the property’s zoning.

Two developers and the owner are planning to raze the Northeast Baltimore center and rebuild it as Northwood Commons with more than 100,000 square feet of shops and restaurants anchored by a Barnes & Noble college bookstore.

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Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey has proposed legislation on behalf of owner Northwood SC LLC that would repeal the site’s current “planned unit development” designation. Under previous plans, the “PUD” zoning was put in place, overlaying the commercial zoning, to facilitate the relocation of a McDonald’s at the center. The PUD was retained under a now defunct plan that included building several floors of apartments above the retail strip.

But the current developers have no plans for housing, and the city’s 2016 comprehensive rezoning made the PUD designation unnecessary, Dorsey said. Reverting to previous commercial zoning is necessary, however, to move forward under current plans, Dorsey said.

“There’s no need to have a PUD when you don’t need a PUD,” Dorsey said. “Without the repeal of this PUD, they would not be allowed to get a permit to develop a single-story development.”

Developers said the “PUD” repeal is a procedural step and that no plans have changed since the team marked the start of construction in November.

“We’re very encouraged," said Mark Renbaum, managing partner of MLR Partners, part of a joint venture on the project with MCB Real Estate and the center’s owner, Northwood Shopping Center Partnership. "This has been a long process with community stakeholders, city stakeholders, state stakeholders, university stakeholders, and we are now at execution stage.”

Developers are working now on finishing leasing and financing, he said.

Plans call for Morgan State to lease 11,000 square feet at the center for a Barnes & Noble university bookstore, which will include a Starbucks coffee shop and serve students, faculty and visitors. The existing McDonald’s will move to space along Loch Raven Boulevard.

Other tenants will be Wing Stop and Sunny’s Subs. The redeveloped center, surrounded by the Hillen, Original Northwood and New Northwood neighborhoods, also will include offices for Morgan State’s public safety department. It will be built in two phases, with the first portion expected to open in 2021.

Developers had discussed including housing, but, “as it stands, there is no housing," said P. David Bramble, managing partner of MCB Real Estate.

Developers have said the second phase would include a grocery store. Renbaum said Wednesday that that is still “extremely likely.”

The center at 1500 Havenwood Road has long been an eyesore and a hub for crime. Developers have said a revitalized center will capitalize on new development at Morgan State and will become an amenity both for the university and the surrounding neighborhood.

Work to raze the center is expected to start by the end of the year, Bramble said.

A hearing on the PUD repeal proposal is scheduled before Baltimore City Council’s land use committee Oct. 23.

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