Before there was Lowe’s, Home Depot or Hechinger’s, Walbrook Mill & Lumber Company was the place where many Baltimoreans went to get windows repaired and buy supplies to renovate their homes.
Located at 2636 W. North Avenue, Walbrook was relatively close to neighborhoods such as Bolton Hill, Charles Village and Mount Vernon, and walking through the mill was always an adventure. The business eventually moved to Cockeysville to compete head-on with the home improvement chains, but last month, it closed entirely.
Today, the old mill buildings on North Avenue are still standing, but they may not be around much longer. The five-acre parcel is under contract to a group that is planning a mixed-use development with apartments, commercial space and parking.
Walbrook is the seller. The development group includes Osprey Property Company, the Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation and Neighborhood Housing Services. Osprey, with offices in Annapolis and Lutherville, was founded in 1988 and developed the Printer’s Square apartments in Mount Vernon. It is currently building the $15 million, 41-unit Franklin Flats and Lofts at 16-20 E. Franklin Street.
Earlier this month, Governor Larry Hogan announced that the partners had been selected to receive $2 million from the State of Maryland to help fund a $20.2 million development. It was one of the largest awards announced out of 30 projects funded in the latest round of the state’s Project CORE, which stands for Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise.
James Riggs, vice president of Osprey, said the project would be called Walbrook Mill. Preliminary plans call for a four-story building with 64 apartments and commercial space or “work space” on the ground level along North Avenue, where Walbrook’s retail section used to be. Riggs indicated there may be additional phases after that. He also said he isn’t sure whether the new development will retain any of the Walbrook structures.
Cho Benn Holback + Associates is the architect working on the project.
The Walbrook property is long and narrow, stretching the equivalent of three city blocks. Coppin State University has grown to its east and across North Avenue, with a new south campus anchored by an $80 million science and technology center that opened last year.
Riggs said Osprey has been interested in the Walbrook property since early 2015, but it was the funding assistance from the state that got it moving.
“As a company, we’re very interested in supporting the city,” he said. “We’re very good at getting difficult projects done. This seemed to have a lot of opportunity because of its location next to Coppin. But it wasn’t until the CORE project was announced that we thought we could make it happen. The CORE funding was our green light to go.”
Riggs said the Walbrook team will work with community representatives and others to make sure the redeveloped site complements other revitalization activity along the North Avenue corridor.
“With Coppin Heights CDC as a partner, we will be working very closely with neighborhood residents to make sure the project aligns with community plans and expectations,” he said. “We are excited by the opportunities that the Project CORE funding allows us and look forward to seeing the project through to successful completion.”
Riggs said the community will likely see some development activity on the site in 2017. “We’re working to move on it as quickly as possible,” he said.