The developer behind the planned Woodberry Station apartment building on Clipper Road has cut the size of the project by nearly a third, reducing the planned number of units from around 80 to 55.
Christopher Mfume of CLD Partners today told Baltimore’s Urban Design and Architectural Advisory Panel—UDAAP for short—they’ve “refined” the scope of the project by cutting the number of apartments, and with new design elements and branding.
“We think we’ve come up with a unit mix that is very efficient, but that really meets the market’s needs,” he said.
Approximately half of those will be one-bedroom apartments, and 40 percent of them studio apartments, the latter of which Mfume said last year would rent for between $1,100 and $1,300 a month. The rest would be two-bedroom apartments.
UDAAP gave the newest design its stamp of approval.
CLD Partners’ original plan was to offer mostly studio apartments, with a few one- and two-bedroom options. But in a phone interview today, after the meeting, Mfume said CLD Partners decided to offer more rental options with fewer units after studying the market. “We’ve changed the mix,” he said, while noting the actual building will remain the same size as originally planned.
The building would include 18 parking spaces on the ground level, architect Pavlina Ilieva, of PI.KL Studio, said at the hearing. (Ilieva is one of the five sitting members of UDAAP, but recused herself from discussion on the design.) She and Mfume emphasized the development is meant to be transit-oriented, given its proximity to the Woodberry MTA Light Rail station just down the road. That means less room for cars than a conventional apartment building. Ilieva highlighted the plans for bike storage spaces on the property.
“I think the final product really matches not only our core market, but our core principles of the project, one of which is it being transit-oriented,” Mfume told the panel. “I can’t hammer that enough: get people out of their cars. That’s the main thing.”
The apartments were a sensitive matter during the early summer, when word got out that CLD Partners was planning to demolish two historic stone mill homes from the 1840s on Clipper Mill Road to build a five-story building with 80 units. Preservationists and neighbors objected, saying the development would erase important 19th-century relics of the neighborhood’s industrial history.
Woodberry’s mill homes were designed as a company village for workers at the nearby factories. While the neighborhood is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it’s not designated as a locally protected district by the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, affording it no protection from local development.
A week after the outcry, Mfume agreed to incorporate both of the mill homes into the design of his planned building, even though he said it would cut considerably into the profit margins for the project. At a subsequent community meeting organized by the Woodberry Community Association, Ilieva and Kuo Pao Lian, a co-principal from PI.KL Studios, explained how they would “functionally incorporate” both structures into the complex. The apartments are being built around the two stone edifices, which will function as amenity and commercial space.
Today’s UDAAP hearing was the third time CLD Partners presented designs for development review to the panel. Joining Mfume were Ilieva and other consultants on the project, including Core Studio Design, which is handling the landscaping, and Post Typography, responsible for the branding and aesthetics.
Among the plans that Post Typography principal Bruce Willen presented were downward-facing lighting around the building, a “smaller and more reserved” sign labeling the apartments as Woodberry Station out front, “fins” placed vertically along the back side of the building facing I-83 that would be colored black on one side and yellow the other, and an illuminated circle that would decorate the back side of the building at night.
While UDAAP members lauded some of the adjustments PI.KL has made—including altering balcony plans and changing some of the exterior materials—they raised concerns about branding, saying it should be subtle and reflect the rectangular building’s simplicity and fit within the historic neighborhood.
“Right now it reads as though it’s a holiday,” panelist and architect Osborne Anthony said. “It’s too much stuff. I think the elegance of this building is its simplicity contrasted with the historic elements that are around.”
Mfume said his team “really appreciated the panel’s comments,” and said the feedback is “definitely something to look at as we progress the project.”
Woodberry Station remains in the design development stage, but Mfume said it’ll move into construction “shortly.”
The project is one of two in the works in Woodberry. Valstone Partners is working with two developers to build nearly 150 townhouses and apartments in the nearby Clipper Mill community.
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