Four years after the Baltimore City Council approved a planned unit development for a Walmart-anchored shopping center in Remington, new owners of the site say they won't pursue the controversial 25th Street Station PUD, and will work with neighborhoods to develop a different mixed-used project.
But Evan Morville, a partner in Seawall Development Co., didn't rule oout that a Walmart could be included in a new plan, saying if the community wants it, "We would listen. All options are on the table."
Seawall and the Anderson Automotive Group announced Wednesday they have closed on the sale of six properties that Anderson owned in the area around 25th and Howard Streets. Settlement was Monday, according to Morville and Anderson Automotive Group president Bruce Mortimer.
They would not disclose the selling price.
Original developer, WV Urban Developments, had been hampered in its efforts to build 25th Street Station. Many residents opposed Walmart as an anchor, saying the big-box chain has a reputation of not paying fair wages and worrying the competition would drive out small businesses.
Some residents sued to stop the project, but others were more supportive, saying a center with a big box store was needed in North Baltimore.
WV pulled out of the long-stalled project in May, citing lawsuits and appeals since the City Council approved the PUD in 2010. Mortimer then turned to Seawall, which has redeveloped several old mills in the area as apartments and is now planning to redevelop the 2700-2800 blocks of Remington Avenue as a $51 million, mixed-use project called Remington Row.
Seawall must now decide how to develop the roughly 11-acre site south of 25th Street, a process Morville said would be based on "a collaborative process" with the communities of Remington, Charles Village and Old Goucher.
Morville said Seawall has no current vision for the site, other than as a mixed-used development.
Baltimore City Councilman Mary Pat Clarke said she welcomes Seawall's involvement and that the company was "very straightforward" in telling her and other elected officials that the process of planning and developing the site could take more than three years.
"I want to see something respectful of that community to the south" of 25th Street," she said.
He said the company will wait until its first priority, Remington Row, breaks ground by the end of the year before turning its attention to working with neighborhoods to develop the former Anderson site into "something we can all be proud of."
He also said he thinks the development of the Anderson site will complement Remington Row.
"I think they'll play off each other. They'll help support each other," he said.
Mortimer said he has no plans to get involved in planning for the development of the site unless his advice is sought. But he has agreed to relocate and consolidate his body shop on 29th Street to 25th Street, to help Seawall move forward with Remington Row more quickly.
"It helps me be more efficient and it helps (Seawall)," he said.
The properties that Seawall has purchased are:
• The old General Motors dealership site at 101-W. 25th St.
• The Anderson showroom at 204 W. Ware St.
• A storage lot, currently leased to a bus company, at 2500 Huntingdon Ave.
• A paint shop at 2520 Howard St.
• The Honda Service Center at 2507 N. Howard St.
• The 29th Street Body Shop at 301 W. 29th St. It will be relocated to the old GM site.
Clarke said she is pleased that Anderson "is putting its roots down in the community for the foreseeable future. It's a good business. (Mortimer has) always been a good community partner. And it's a lot of good jobs that stay in Baltimore."
"I think that's good news for the community," she said.
In effect, Seawall and the communities are starting from scratch with the Anderson properties.
"We're looking forward to the opportunity for a new slate and to work with the community on a new plan," Morville said. "We believe that the best thing to do is to start over and come up with a program that everyone can be happy with."
Said Mortimer, "Time will tell what's appropriate."
Whatever it ends up being, Remington will be the beneficiary, Morville said.