Four vacant houses in Hampden will be torn down to make way for a 28-unit apartment building, developer Garrett Adler of Effect Inc. told residents at a Hampden Community Council meeting Monday night.
More than 50 Hampden residents attended a meeting at the Hampden library where the developer unveiled preliminary plans for a six-level building that his group proposes to construct in place of the boarded-up houses at 3815, 3817, 3819 and 3821 Falls Road.
Adler and architect Adam Carballo of Carballo Architecture said the apartments would be a mix of studios and one- and two-bedroom units, some with balconies or decks, and that the project would include five on-site parking spaces. The land on Falls Road is zoned C-1, a category that allows buildings to rise up to 60 feet, without a zoning variance. Adler described the height as “five [stories] and a penthouse.”
The project is one of two in which a business or developer is seeking to tear down houses in Hampden, which is not a city historic district.
The owner of The Wine Source at 3601 Elm Ave., David Wells, is seeking approval to raze houses at 3618 and 3620 Elm Ave. to create a 10-space parking lot for his business across the street.
The Baltimore City Council’s Economic and Community Development Committee has scheduled a meeting to consider legislation that would permit the parking lot. It’s set for June 20 at 2:10 p.m. in City Hall, 100 Holliday St.
Two City Council members, Odette Ramos and James Torrence, attended the meeting about the Falls Road development.
Residents raised a number of concerns about the proposed development, including its impact on parking and trash in the area and the exact rents that the developers plan to charge. “How are you proposing a 28-unit building with five parking spots?” one resident asked the developer.
Marie Anderson and Caitlin Audette, planners with Baltimore’s planning department, said the project as designed falls within what’s allowed by the city’s zoning code, which does not require any on-site parking. The project still needs to undergo design review and the developers have to consolidate the four lots before they can get construction permits. The community council is planning a follow-up meeting with the developers in June “to give folks a chance to share their thoughts/concerns more in depth.”
Carballo said the team explored the idea of renovating the four existing buildings to contain six apartments each, which would be allowed by the zoning code. But he said the renovated buildings wouldn’t provide “very good space” and would have redundant staircases, so the team decided that consolidating the lots and constructing one replacement building made more sense.
Asked after the meeting how much the rents would be, Adler said he didn’t have specific numbers but would aim to make them “market rate or slightly under.” He said he didn’t have a figure for how much the project would cost to build.
Pros and cons
The announcement of the project — between the Wishbone Reserve vintage treasures emporium and the Good Neighbor coffee shop, across from Papi’s Taco Joint — generated a lively discussion on Reddit, where more than 200 commenters expressed opinions for and against the project.
Some said they thought the building was out of scale with the surrounding area and feared it would add to traffic congestion and would be unaffordable to many. But others said that stretch of Falls Road makes sense for more density because Hampden is an amenity-rich, walkable neighborhood that’s served by public transportation, including buses on Falls Road and the Woodberry light rail stop, an 11-minute walk from the development site.
“Hampden neighbors – we need to stop further development that will increase the burden of traffic and parking issues especially on the Falls Rd corridor,” said the announcement of the meeting. “[L]et developers know that shoving more units in a small space is not acceptable.”
That sentiment, or a variation, was voiced by some of people who came to the meeting. But online, others countered that the city needs to reverse its declining population and new developments such as this will help increase the tax base. If the city had a better public transportation network, many said, residents wouldn’t need to rely on cars so much and parking would be less of an issue.
“The city really needs to invest more in public transportation to incentivize carless living,” one commenter argued.
“A step toward higher residential density is a step away from car worship,” another agreed.
“It’s silly as hell for anyone to choose to live in a major northeast corridor city yet expect low density and guaranteed parking; they should be in the suburbs,” a third said.
A reliable and punctual public transportation system is needed. The lack of a sufficient number of Bus drivers complicates the problem. Free public transportation would be a huge benefit. More bus routes and bus shelters would help with accepting a cultural change.
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