Two developers are planning to turn two city-owned parking lots into mixed-income and artist housing on the west side of downtown.
French Development and the Episcopal Housing Corporation would buy the lots at 410 and 422 W. Mulberry Street and build two structures with 76 mixed-income apartments and artist housing.
The sale of the lots appears before the city’s spending board on Wednesday. Though the lots were assessed at a value of $895,000, the city is selling them for $300,000 because the project would increase the amount of available affordable housing, eliminate blight, add to the tax base and cultivate artist businesses in the nearby Bromo Arts District, a Board of Estimates agenda says.
As part of the deal, the agenda says, the project will include eight “market-rate units for formerly homeless residents.”
The lots sit near another artist space owned by French Development, the H&H Building–long a home to DIY venues and live-work spaces. In the wake of the late 2016 eviction of the DIY arts space the Bell Foundry, which was followed by the creation of a Safe Art Space Task Force by Mayor Catherine Pugh, performances and gatherings at the H&H were halted, as City Paper reported last fall. (Full disclosure: I worked as an editor at City Paper before joining Baltimore Fishbowl.)
In a phone interview, president Jim French said the building is fully licensed and up to code. With the namesake outdoor equipment company leaving at the end of last month, the developer is looking to turn the first two floors into more artist space.
“What we’d like to do is create live-work spaces, artist housing spaces to match what we have on floors three through six,” he says.
His current artist tenants have also given design recommendations for rooms in the new buildings.
The partnership will be seeking state affordable housing tax credits through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
Pointing to artists spaces like Le Mondo and Current Space, the New America diner that sits below his offices and projects either in the works or completed, French says he’s optimistic about all the work going on in the west side of downtown.
“I think there are lots of positive signs out there we’re feeling hopeful about.”
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