After years of meetings, negotiations and design presentations aimed at replacing the crime-ridden Madison Park North public housing project that became known by some as the “Murder Mall,” developers David Bramble and Mark Renbaum finally have something to show for it.
Baltimore’s Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an application from Bramble and Renbaum to construct 120 town homes in the 800 block of West North Avenue, former site of a housing complex that was such a trouble spot the city and federal governments joined forces to tear it down.
The vote was the first of two key hurdles the developers need to clear in order to begin their much-anticipated revitalization of the now-vacant Madison Park North property, a strategic location between Bolton Hill and Reservoir Hill, Station North and West Baltimore.
The next stop is Baltimore’s Planning Commission, which will hold a hearing on August 5 to determine whether to approve a subdivision and development plan.
The 120 townhouses approved Tuesday are the first phase of a larger mixed-use community that the developers intend to construct over the next several years along a three-block stretch of North Avenue, between Park and Linden avenues. The eight-acre parcel, on the Reservoir Hill side of North Avenue, previously contained about 200 apartments that were built in the 1970s as an urban renewal project and razed four years ago.
Bramble, the head of MCB Real Estate and public face of the development, told zoning board members in a virtual hearing that he has lived in Madison Park for his entire life. “We’re super excited to finally be at the point where we can get started with this,” he said.
Al Barry, a consultant working with the development team, said plans call for construction of up to 380 residences in all plus about 40,000 square feet of commercial and office space, including some neighborhood-oriented ‘retail frontage” along North Avenue to serve Bolton Hill and Reservoir Hill.
No one testified against the application at yesterday’s hearing. The project was supported by Baltimore City Council members Eric Costello and James Torrence, who said in a joint letter that it would be a catalyst for additional improvements along North Avenue and in West Baltimore. They said the developers have finally resolved title issues that have held up construction in the past.
“The developer proposes a plan for pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development that will enhance and bring together the communities we represent on both sides of North Avenue,” they wrote.
Barry explained that zoning board consent was needed because the land is zoned C-2, a category that requires separate approval for town houses as a conditional use. He said the developers have worked closely with surrounding communities for many years to finalize their plans to revitalize the area.
“This is such an important location and such an infamous site,” he said.
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