UMB agrees to put bookstore on west-side block

The Baltimore Sun

After heavy lobbying by city officials, University of Maryland, Baltimore administrators have agreed to locate a college bookstore on the northeast corner of Baltimore and Paca streets, a move city boosters hope will continue to fuel the west side's revival.

Ed Fishel, a spokesman for the university, confirmed that the decision, reached Monday, would locate a Barnes & Noble bookstore in the 400 block of W. Baltimore St.

Fishel had no details of the agreement, which he said was reached through the president's office. Baltimore Development Corp. officials, who negotiated with the university, did not return calls for comment.

The new bookstore would have about 10,000 square feet and primarily function as a university store with textbooks but would also include books for the larger community and likely a cafe section. The project is several years from completion.

Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership, said yesterday that he was thrilled with the news.

"It's extremely good news. I was delighted," said Fowler. "This is a catalyst for the downtown area."

City officials, including Mayor Sheila Dixon, had been pressuring the university to put the bookstore on the block to boost revitalization efforts.

The bookstore would be just west of the Hippodrome Theatre, on the same block.

University officials had planned to open the bookstore in a new campus center that is under construction in the 600 block of W. Lombard St.

Placing the bookstore in a university-owned building would have been less costly; now the university will have to pay rent.

But the city offered financial incentives such as low-interest loans to the university and the developers -- A&R; Development Corp. of Baltimore and David S. Brown Enterprises Ltd. -- BDC President M.J. "Jay" Brodie, has said.

The half-block stretch consists of a jewelry/pawn shop, a carryout and a barber shop.

City boosters see the block as a critical link between the Hippodrome and the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus to the west.

The university's bookstore was previously was in the student union building, which is being rebuilt as a new campus center. In the meantime, the bookstore is in a temporary location on Penn Street.

Fowler has said that there are also plans to transform the south side of the block, owned by the same developers, into a mixed-use complex with residential units, retail businesses and possibly offices.

Representatives of A&R; and Brown Enterprises did not return calls for comment yesterday.

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