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Plans for a multilevel building with retail and affordable housing units were presented Thursday to city officials.
Plans for a multilevel building with retail and affordable housing units were presented Thursday to city officials. (Hallie Miller)

Developers and architects presented initial design plans to city officials on the Urban Design and Architecture Panel on Thursday for a mixed-use building with affordable housing units above street-level retail and below-ground parking on Greenmount Avenue in on East Baltimore’s Barclay neighborhood.

The planned development, set for 2434 Greenmount Ave., would involve razing an existing building on the block to make way for the new project.

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Developer Aziz Housseini of Fortis Asset Partners did not offer a construction timeframe for the property but said the firm was continuing discussions with Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and the City Council, who are the owners of the adjacent lot that the firm hopes to acquire.

The proposed, T-shaped building would stretch from Greenmount Avenue to Brentwood Avenue and feature a retail tenant occupying the Greenmount side. Architect Aaron Zephir of Moseley Architects said the main entrance to the residential section would appear on the Brentwood side.

Zephir proposed a masonry-based structure set atop a concrete streetscape that matches the existing area and a “green” roof designed specifically for stormwater management. The building would rise higher than the adjacent properties but falls within the split zoning height restrictions, he added, with one side about 3 feet higher than the other.

Housseini said he has spoken with one board member of the Greater Greenmount Community Association and sourced inspiration for the project with the help of the building’s current owner as well as Councilman Robert Stokes Sr. Different iterations of the development have been in the works for years, he said.

“We wanted to make sure we completed our fact-finding mission to find out what would be acceptable to the community,” Housseini said.

Members of the design panel said that while they appreciated the practical design elements, they felt concerned about how an apartment building would fit into the surrounding area, composed of mostly rowhomes. Pavlina Ilieva, an architect and program director in Morgan State University’s School of Architecture and Planning, said the current design schematics make the building appear like an “institutional” structure rather than part of a neighborhood.

"There’s something about it that screams, ‘This is where we house people,’ ” she said.

Panelist Osborne Anthony, also an architect, said he wondered whether another facility — perhaps something more community-centered — might better serve the area than what the team proposed.

“Don’t be married to this scheme just yet,” he said.

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