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Long-awaited plans for West Baltimore’s Madison Park North complex revealed

Baltimore developer P. David Bramble unveiled long-anticipated plans for the former site of the Madison Park North Apartments on North Avenue to city officials that include town houses, apartments, green space, shops and possibly a grocery store.

The project would reactivate a barren stretch of about 8 acres in Reservoir Hill at a major gateway to West Baltimore.

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Bramble, a co-founder and managing partner at the MCB Real Estate development firm, said the proposal seeks to promote homeownership and density at the former site of a long-troubled apartment complex.

“This is one of the most important projects going on in the state because it represents a major capital investment — over $100 million — in a neighborhood that hasn’t seen investment like that, at least in my lifetime,” said Bramble, who lives in Madison Park. “We are doing a statement deal, west of 83, saying, ‘We are here, there is exciting stuff here, there’s new housing opportunity and lots of stuff to do.’ That kind of project.”

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Razed four years ago, the Madison Park North Apartments were notoriously dubbed “Murder Mall.”

Located off just off Interstate 83, the new Madison Park North would complement a broader vision for the area that already includes Druid Hill Park, an elementary school, the Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric and the Maryland Institute College of Art campus. Bramble has described the venture as a critical city project that requires extensive coordination with the city and various community partners.

“It’s been a very long time coming,” Bramble said during a meeting Thursday of the Urban Design and Architectural Advisory Panel. He said building market-rate town homeswould be the first phase of the development.

MCB has a portfolio of shopping centers and some residential buildings. It previously explored other visions for the site, including erecting a “technology incubator” there. But the plans have been met with bureaucratic barriers, policy hurdles and other obstructions, including negotiations with Amtrak, which owns an underground right-of-way at the site.

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With the exception of the proposed town houses, other buildings at the site would serve mixed uses. The apartment buildings — with over 400 units combined — would feature retail space as well as parking.

Brittany Sink, a landscape architect with Morris & Ritchie Associates, said the team focused on creating a space suitable for pedestrians, bikers and urban dwellers. She emphasized the development’s location within close range of several public transit options.

“These are storefronts and shop windows that North Avenue needs,” Sink said.

But the panelists at Thursday’s meeting said the team’s first iteration of the designs fell short, and encouraged them to work to incorporate the site into the surrounding communities. Panelist Osborne Anthony suggested adding more green space and rethinking the town homes, which appeared “cramped” in Thursday’s renderings.

“It comes down to the execution, and I think the execution has a long way to go,” added UDAAP chair Pavlina Ilieva, urging the team to reconfigure the space as one might a Rubik’s Cube. “None of the new buildings honor the urbanity of the neighborhood. It’s important to strengthen North Avenue to strengthen your project.”

The site sits in a federal opportunity zone, which qualifies it for certain tax credits and subsidies.

Bramble said that while he supports affordable housing, this project will not incorporate it.

“We think bringing market rate to areas of this neighborhood is important,” he said. “Ultimately what we’re looking for is mixed income so that there’s room for everybody.

“There’s potential to catalyze investment in West Baltimore, and that’s what we’re looking for — real investment dollars coming in to strengthen the community.”

He said he expects financing to be completed in the spring and for construction to begin in November 2021.

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