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A former industrial parcel on Key Highway in South Baltimore will be the site of a seven-story residential and retail project called Riverside Lofts, if developer Mark Shapiro can get the design and financing approvals he needs to move ahead with construction.

Shapiro is scheduled today to present preliminary plans for the project to Baltimore's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel. They call for a building with a Walgreens store on the first level and 100 to 120 apartments above. The building, which is being designed by Hord Coplan Macht of Baltimore, also will contain about 170 parking spaces.

The land, near the southwest corner of Key Highway and Lawrence Street, was formerly the site of a steel fabricating company and was rezoned for commercial development last year. Shapiro said that Riverside Lofts is being designed to comply with a 90-foot height limit now on the property and that most of the residences will feature unobstructed views of the harbor over the grounds of the nearby Baltimore Museum of Industry.

Al Barry of A. B. Associates, a planning consultant working with Shapiro, said the developer needs to get approval from the city before he can seek financing.

He said Riverside Lofts is likely to be less of a risk for a potential lender than a condominium development because the residential rental market has improved over the past year, especially along Baltimore's waterfront.

"We have to know what we can build" before seeking financing, he said. Because Walgreens would sign a long-term lease, "this is not a speculative project."

Shapiro said he hopes to begin construction by late 2010 and complete the project by late 2011. He said he is aiming to attract residents who work in downtown Baltimore, Harbor East, Columbia and Washington.

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