Remington Walmart plan wins unanimous vote

A proposal to build a shopping center on 11 acres in Remington received preliminary approval in a unanimous Baltimore City Council vote Monday, all but guaranteeing that the council will grant final zoning permission next week.

Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, who introduced the zoning for the 25th Street Station shopping center, which is in her district, lauded it as "a development project that will bring jobs to the community" and said the plan "really embodies community input."

Jon Laria, an attorney for developer Rick Walker, thanked Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the council and "community partners" and said the project "has been a collaborative process without equal." But two community groups that represent Remington residents have split on the project, which is to be built on the site of Anderson Automotive, near 25th and Howard streets.

While Judith Kunst, president of the Greater Remington Improvement Association, said she was "thrilled" by the council's decision, Remington Neighborhood Association leader Joan Floyd was still raising concerns about measures to reduce traffic.

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, whose district abuts the shopping center site, said she is pressing the city Transportation Department to elaborate on the road improvements made necessary by the project, and those that the neighborhood would need anyway. She said residents are concerned that once the developers hit a $160,000 cap, the cost of road improvements will be shouldered by taxpayers.

Matthew Weinstein, Baltimore director of Progressive Maryland, which has been lobbying city lawmakers to force Walmart to pay workers the state living wage, called the vote "a big disappointment."

"Baltimore is really being disrespected," he said. "I don't understand why Baltimore is settling for so much less than other cities."

Other cities, such as Chicago, have demanded more concessions from Walmart before allowing the retail giant to construct a store in city limits, he said.

A bill introduced by Clarke that would require major retailers to pay the city's living wage was killed by a 1-1 committee vote, but she is attempting to resurrect the measure.

Weinstein said that Bmore CAN, a coalition of progressive groups that has raised concerns about the project, is planning a rally before next Monday's council meeting. He said members of his group were scrutinizing elected officials' stances on the project and predicted that it would be "an issue in the election."

Once the project receives final approval from the council and Rawlings-Blake, construction could begin as soon as spring, Laria said.

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