Nearly 80 west side apartments are planned

Baltimore officials have chosen developers to embark on $27.1 million in projects to rebuild most of two blocks of North Howard Street and expand the city's west side revitalization.

Redevelopment of mostly vacant properties, including the former Mayfair Theater, will bring 79 market rate apartments, street-level shops and on-site parking to the 400 and 500 blocks of N. Howard and to the 300 block of W. Franklin streets, the Baltimore Development Corp. said yesterday.

Mayfair Development Group, a team from Washington will redevelop three sites in the 400 and 500 blocks of N. Howard St., including the former theater.

An Ellicott City developer, P & D Realty LLC, will build a smaller project, also in the 400 block of North Howard, said the BDC, the city's development agency.

The city said it would enter into exclusive negotiations with each team to purchase the city-owned property and redevelop sites the city had offered for development in June. "We liked the proposals," M.J. "Jay" Brodie, BDC president, said. "What we know works on the west side is rental housing, and retail will gradually come along. It may be slow, but it will come. But the primary thing that makes these developments work is rental housing."

The 400 block of Howard St., now has one business, Uniform City, operating from a building in good condition, but "the rest of this block has been a shambles," he said.

Baltimore officials have been working to spur private redevelopment of blighted swaths of the west side. Apartment buildings built farther south on Howard, such as Camden Court at South Howard and West Lombard streets, have been successful in attracting tenants.

One of the area's largest projects, the "superblock" bounded by Fayette, Howard, Lexington and Liberty streets, sits several blocks south of the Mayfair and the three other North Howard sites. The project is expected to bring in hundreds of new apartments, parking and shops to the city's old retail district.

Mayfair Development, a joint venture partnership of Accent Development Co., of Potomac, and Century Associates, of Washington, will redevelop three sites - a $26 million project.

The developers will build 27 apartments, 10,000 square feet of shops and parking at 408 through 416 N. Howard St.; and 10 apartments and 4,000 square feet of shops at 300-304 W. Franklin St. and 502-504 N. Howard St.

At the former theater at 506 N. Howard, the team plans 26 rental apartments on the upper floors and 17,000 square feet of shops and parking.

The developers said they expect to finance the historic rehabilitation through the sale of historic tax credits. Construction could take up to two years.

Mayfair is already redeveloping the Faust Brothers Building at 307 W. Baltimore St. across from Centerpoint, the largest redevelopment to date on the west side.

Under P&D; Realty's $1.5 million proposal for the 400 block W. Howard St., two boarded-up buildings will be transformed into 16 apartments above ground-level shops.

Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership and a member of an advisory panel that recommended the selection of the two development teams, said moving forward on the project quickly is crucial to the area.

"These blocks of Howard Street need a shot of adrenalin," Fowler said. "We envision the apartment market will continue to thrive, making these projects achievable. Traditional cities have developed with shops and residences above. It's a nice model to continue to build on the west side."

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