Book superstore for UB tower

The Baltimore Sun

Barnes & Noble College Booksellers Superstore will open in The Fitzgerald at UB Midtown apartment tower under construction near the University of Baltimore, university officials said yesterday.

The 20,000-square-foot store, slated to open in fall 2010, will include a Starbucks-branded cafe and sections for University of Baltimore textbook sales. It will be similar to a Barnes & Noble in Charles Village near the Homewood campus of the Johns Hopkins University.

The lead developer, the Bozzuto Group, started building the 275-unit market-rate apartment project in October on a university-owned site at West Mount Royal Avenue and Oliver Street and plans to complete the residential portion by spring 2011.

The project will feature additional shops and a 1,245-space parking garage to open early next year, with 950 spaces designated for university parking.

The developers have expanded the retail space and reduced the number of apartments by five to accommodate Barnes & Noble, said Toby Bozzuto, president of Bozzuto Development Co., the development company of Greenbelt-based Bozzuto Group. The Fitzgerald plan initially called for about 14,000 square feet of smaller stores.

"We've been talking to other retailers over the years," Bozzuto said. Barnes & Noble "was such a coup that we were willing to forgo smaller stores for something of this magnitude and the strength of the Barnes & Noble name."

The bookseller will help to enliven Oliver Street, which currently has no retail, he said.

The project, near a light rail stop and Penn Station, is part of a larger university-led effort to revitalize the area around the campus. Bozzuto is developing and managing the project in a venture with the university and other partners.

Robert L. Bogomolny, president of UB, said he expects the Barnes & Noble store to become a magnet for the community, including the university and the surrounding neighborhoods of Mount Vernon and Bolton Hill.

"We see this as vastly improving the quality of life around our community," Bogomolny said. "It's part of the whole business of creating urban density as part of the renewal of the city."

He said the project has been able to move ahead in a recession because of the financial strength of the university's partners. He said apartment demand has stayed strong as the for-sale segment of the market has slowed.

Rental rates for the apartments, which should begin leasing by fall or winter of 2010, have not been set, Bozzuto said.

"I'm very hopeful that these apartments will do well," he said. "We think the price point which we anticipate renting will be a value compared to downtown waterfront living. It will be an experience more like a boutique hotel."

The Barnes & Noble store will be similar to other college campus Barnes & Noble stores, selling books and periodicals as well as textbooks and university-themed merchandise. It will feature a 56-seat cafe on the mezzanine level that will serve Starbucks products and offer an expanded menu, Bozzuto said.

Barnes & Noble has run a small store in UB's Student Center for the past two years. That space will likely be used for expanded food service.

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