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'Signature development' in Park Heights moves closer to reality

Baltimore Business Journal February 15, 2019

An 84-unit apartment development planned for Park Heights is being hailed as the cornerstone of a long-awaited turnaround in the Baltimore neighborhood.

Designs for Renaissance Row were unveiled Thursday before a design panel at City Hall. The four-story building will be bordered by Pimlico Road and Park Heights Avenue near Cold Spring Lane and replace nearly an entire block of abandoned and blighted rowhouses.

"This is the first signature piece of development in Park Heights," said Marcus Pollock, executive director of the nonprofit Park Heights Renaissance, which is overseeing the ambitious renewal project in Northwest Baltimore. "It's going to be the defining moment in our community because people have been waiting for this."

The city design panel lauded the project's landmark status.

"This building sits on a prominent artery and this being one of the first projects to reestablish that corner, it plays a very important role," said Pavlina Ilieva, chair of the city's Urban Design and Architecture Advisory Panel.

The Park Heights redevelopment has been in the works for more than a decade and is a main focus of Mayor Catherine Pugh's economic development goals.

The community was once a middle-class enclave but over the past 50 years has suffered from high unemployment, urban decay, drug dealing and violent crime. There are at least 2,000 vacant houses and buildings in the community, according to the Park Heights Renaissance website.

Plans for the renewal of the community include attracting new commercial and residential development. Park Heights is located in one of the city's 42 opportunity zones making it eligible for private investment spurred by federal and state tax breaks under the new federal program.

The area's centerpiece is the Pimlico Race Track, which is being discussed for redevelopment in the General Assembly this session in Annapolis. A study released by the Maryland Stadium Authority in December showed a detailed plan to redevelop Pimlico and its surrounding areas in Park Heights with a price tag of $424 million.

Another major component of the Park Heights renewal is adding new housing — led by the Renaissance Row project, which will feature affordable-rate apartments.

"The importance of the Park Heights neighborhood and redevelopment efforts aim to bring that community back to its original condition and glory," said Ivy Dench-Carter, regional vice president with Pennrose Development, which is developing Renaissance Row. "We have significant financial support from the city and we hope to begin these apartments by the end of the year."

The designs for Renaissance Row show a large U-shaped building that totals 93,421 square feet. The development will have an interior green space for leisure and recreation and new offices for Park Heights Renaissance, which will be located off of Park Heights Avenue at street level. Moseley Architects created the designs.

The design panel said the design needs to be tweaked to add a more welcoming entry to the community. Updates were expected to be presented to the city in the coming month or so to keep with the development schedule, Dench-Carter said.