Two separate design and development teams presented plans to city officials Thursday that aim to help reshape Park Heights into a bustling and affordable residential neighborhood.
Highlighted as a funding priority for the city, Park Heights’ slated $100 million revitalization effort will repurpose 17 acres of vacant land. The neighborhood, once a “streetcar suburb” for many black and Jewish residents, now contains a concentration of vacant homes and low-income earners.
The city tapped NHP Foundation Inc., a New York-based nonprofit that has developed more than 9,000 units of low- and moderate-income housing across the country, in September to lead the development. NHP is partnering with two Baltimore-based real estate developers — Henson Development Co., led by Dan Henson, a former head of Baltimore Housing, and Marenberg Enterprises Inc., headed by Sandy Marenberg.
A team, comprised of NHP, Henson Development and Torti Gallas Architects, presented proposals Thursday for for two multi-family buildings on Park Heights Avenue and straddling two sides of Virginia Avenue, one an affordable housing complex with over 100 units, and one specifically for seniors with about 50 units.
The group’s master plan also includes building single-family homes for sale as well as rental houses and townhomes. A library, recreation center, public parks or a sports field also were floated as possibilities for the parcel.
Dana Henson, vice president of Henson Development Co., said the opportunity to work on the project proves especially important for her as a resident of Park Heights.
“This is a really cohesive development bringing a lot of housing typologies and unit types to the area,” she said, adding that the firm plans to collaborate with Park Heights’ community groups to establish first-time homeownership training and set up the residents for financial readiness.
“We wanted to create real change in the neighborhood and give it a different kind of character,” said Catherine Fennell, who handles acquisitions for NHP.
She said the community felt particularly excited about the proposed single-family homes.
The presentations were made to the city’s Urban Design and Architecture Advisory Panel, whose members said they appreciated the team’s thought to provide more open green space throughout the housing clusters than in other modern communities.
“You’re extending the urban fabric of where it isn’t anymore,” said landscape architect Sharon Bradley.
The project likely will develop in two phases, with the first phase presented Thursday. The developers are preparing to request tax credits for the project, said Alice Enz of Torti Gallas. From there, the team would establish a timeframe.
“It’s so important to get this right,” said UDAAP chair Pavlina Ilieva, while offering minor critiques and suggestions for the landscape and design.
Earlier in the day, another development team pitched an apartment complex less than a mile away, framing it as a concept designed with an “urban look at an affordable price” in Park Heights.
The proposed pentagon-shaped apartment building, which architect Fernando Bonilla-Verdesoto of Soto Architecture and Urban Design described as an affordable housing complex, would be situated next to the West Cold Spring MetroLink station.
The four-story structure, spread across about 2.5 acres and expected to cost over $40 million, would bring in another 163 units, some offered at market rate and others at a lower cost, according to a project worksheet provided by Andrew Hanson of Conifer Realty LLC. The exact ratio of affordable units to market price units was not provided. It would include parking and an interior courtyard.
The planned structure at 3025 W. Cold Spring Lane would replace a now-defunct concrete products facility that specialized in burial vaults.
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The team, comprised of Soto Architecture and Conifer Realty, pledged to maintain the complex’s integrity consistent with the surrounding area, which includes industrial contractors, a funeral home, townhouses and other apartment buildings.
“There’s potential to create a new gateway for the neighborhood,” Hanson said.
Echoing this, Bonilla-Verdesoto said the team hopes to include a building entrance that faces the metro station, demonstrating the team’s commitment to providing a safe and transit-accessible facility.
But UDAAP members expressed some reservations about the proposed design, specifically about its layout, shape and it walkability.
“It looks inviting to cars but not inviting to people,” Ilieva said. “There’s nothing about it that speaks urban.”
The team last met with the UDAAP panel in January, Hanson said.
The neighborhood borders the Pimlico Race Course, home of the annual Preakness Stakes horse race, which is also slated to receive a full-scale redevelopment of its own.