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Planning Commission approves zoning for Perkins Homes redevelopment

The Perkins Homes housing development in East Baltimore includes 688 units.
The Perkins Homes housing development in East Baltimore includes 688 units. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

The Baltimore Housing Authority won approval of a key zoning change Thursday that is designed to clear the way for the redevelopment of Perkins Homes, a public housing project near Fells Point that the authority wants to tear down and replace with a dense, mixed-income development.

The project is expected to include about 1,100 units, including 629 heavily subsidized affordable units, alongside market-rate and moderate income homes.

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It could cost $170 million to $200 million, said the Housing Authority's Margaret "Peggy" Webster.

The plan for the 16.8-acre site, which would unfold over 10 to 15 years, remains in flux, she said. More details, including designs, are expected in the next six months. Construction is unlikely to start for at least two years.

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Perkins Homes, which dates to the 1940s and houses more than 600 families — or almost 1,400 people — is located between Bank, Pratt, Bethel and Eden streets, in a part of the city that has seen tremendous growth in recent years.

The new zoning approved by the Planning Commission allows for taller buildings than the current two- and three-story structures. It is the same designation that applies to the northern end of Calvert Street, near University Parkway.

The developer — a team selected last year that includes Virginia-based CRC Partners, Washington-based Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures and Baltimore architecture firm Hord Coplan Macht — wanted the zoning change before committing about $3 million to further master planning, Webster said.

But one neighbor said the city should hold off on a zoning change until there is more information about the plans.

"It just seems like we're putting the cart before horse," said Liz Bement, of Upper Fells Point.

Because Perkins Homes is federal public housing, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has to approve the housing authority plan, which would make the units privately owned. Any large project is also subject to the city's design review process.

Webster said the housing authority plans to use a ground lease to ensure the units remain affordable. It is also looking for nearby parcels that could reduce density in the current plan.

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