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UMB BioPark takes step to add up to 10 acres

The Baltimore Sun

Developers of the University of Maryland Baltimore's biotechnology park took a preliminary step yesterday on a plan that will encompass up to 10 acres along West Baltimore Street on the city's west side and develop up to 10 buildings dedicated to research.

The UMB BioPark has one fully leased building, which opened in 2005, and a garage. It's also completing a second research building and plans a third, an 180,000-square-foot structure, to be developed by Wexford Science+Technology.

But the park's original planned unit development (PUD) zoning, which allows for higher density development, only covers 4.7 acres on the north side of the 800 and 900 blocks of West Baltimore Street, at the edge of the University of Maryland's downtown campus.

Yesterday, the BioPark's developer showed a city design panel a preliminary concept for a master plan that would double the acreage by including land on the south side of those blocks.

"It's a good scale and scope that makes for a very economically viable [project] with a critical mass of companies," said Jane M. Shaab, senior director of business development for the university.

The university waited until it had acquired commercial property south of West Baltimore Street before requesting the expanded zoning, Shaab said. An expansion requires City Council approval. Yesterday's meeting with city's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel is a first step in the process.

Design panel members reviewed the conceptual master plan yesterday, but were not shown the location and size of potential new buildings. The university plans to meet next week with community groups and return to the design panel with more detailed plans by the end of the month.

Design panel members stressed the need to keep the BioPark from becoming an isolated project that effectively turns its back on the nearby residential neighborhoods.

Several local residents and property owners who spoke during the panel presentation asked developers to keep future buildings in character with the neighborhood, which include historic properties.

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