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Hampden has a new parking solution and another problem

Residents who live near the Union Mill apartments are complaining that tenants are parking on Union Avenue rather than in the complex's lot, creating area parking problems.
Residents who live near the Union Mill apartments are complaining that tenants are parking on Union Avenue rather than in the complex's lot, creating area parking problems.(Algerina Perna/The Baltimore Sun)

There's good news and bad news on Hampden's parking front.

The good news is that community leaders are in final negotiations to use a business lot near The Avenue as valet parking for the public during evening hours. An announcement is planned for Nov. 1, said Will Bauer, vice president of the Hampden Community Council, who also serves on a parking task force in Hampden.

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Bauer would not name the business that owns the lot, saying only that is is used by the business during work days and is located one block off The Avenue. The lot would be available to the public from 5 p.m. to 1 p.m. daily, with an attendant at the gate to park customers, Bauer said. Motorists would be charged a "nominal" parking fee, he said, adding that the owner is being altruistic and trying to help alleviate Hampden's much talked-about parking problems.

"If things go smoothly, we could start the lot before Christmas," Bauer said.

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The bad news is that a new residential parking problem has come to light in Hampden, where parking on The Avenue (West 36th Street) and around the Rotunda shopping mall is already hard to find.

Residents who live near Seawalll Development Co.'s Union Mill apartment complex say some Union Mill tenants are parking on Union Avenue rather than on the Union Mill private lot, because the street is closer to the main entrance.

That's making it harder for area residents to find parking, several residents told Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby at a meeting in the Roosevelt Park Recreation Center on Oct. 16 about parking problems in Hampden. They said they often have to park four or five blocks away.

Kerry Brady, a resident of the 1400 block of West 37th Street, said that if the Union Mill tenants aren't going to use the lot, then area residents should be able to park there. She said she would be happy to park there and walk the block or block and a half to her house if Seawall would make the lot available — "and we didn't have to pay."

Residents said some tenants of the converted mill in the 1500 block of Union Avenue tend to park on the side of Union Avenue where parking is allowed and on both sides of Buena Vista Avenue, because the entrance is at Union and Buena Vista avenues, and it's a longer walk for those who park on the lot.

Residents of 37th Street said they have seen as many as 40 parking spaces empty on the lot in the evenings, and suggested that Seawall could solve the problem by making that entrance a fire door and moving the main entrance closer to the lot, or charging residents for parking as part of their rent and then creating numbered spaces, similar to plans by Rotunda owner Hekemian & Co., once redevelopment of the Hampden mall with apartments is completed.

A related problem is that Artifact Coffee, an eatery that is open to the public, is also located in the Union Mill complex, area residents said. They said that on Friday nights, when a farmers' market is held there, Artifact puts out no-parking signs.

Mosby told about 20 area residents at the meeting that he would speak to Seawall and Artifact Coffee officials about those problems.

Residents said several other factors also contribute to parking problems in the area. Union Craft Brewing closed its parking lot during movie nights there this summer, and the recently opened Blue Pit BBQ and Whiskey Bar on Union Avenue also draws people to park on the street, residents said. They also said that the nearby light rail stop has no parking lot, adding to parking problems, especially when people park in the area to ride the light rail to Baltimore Orioles and Ravens games downtown.

Frustration over lack of parking, long a bane of Hampden, has reached fever pitch in recent months, as City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke has called for legislation to create a new city Residential Parking Permit area around the Rotunda, where some residents worry mall redevelopment could cause similar parking problems for their neighborhood. An RPP area would require residents there to purchase city-issued parking passes for themselves and their guests and would limit parking by non-residents to one hour a day.

Clarke's proposal has deeply divided the community. Mosby and Clarke both represent parts of Hampden and often work jointly on projects. But Mosby said at the meeting that he asked Clarke to exclude his constituents from her proposed legislation and that he would vote against Clarke's plan if that's what his own constituents want him to do.

Mosby said he would like to arrange a joint meeting led by him and Clarke to air community-wide differences.

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"I know there's been a lot of talk and discussion (about an RPP), some for and some against. So many people are reaching out to me. I was taking feedback from my constituents and they didn't want it."

"We need you to stand firm with us against this," Catelli said.

Daniel Wylie, owner of the men's clothing store Sixteen Tons on West 36th Street, opposes an RPP near the Rotunda and said he fears that residents near Union Mill might soon be calling for an RPP in their area, too.

"What's going to happen down there is the same thing that happened at the Rotunda," he said.

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