Developers plan renewable energy-reliant ‘eco-village’ in NE Baltimore

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Rendering via Living Design Lab

After years of planning to bring new life to Coldstream Homestead Montebello’s blighted Tivoly Triangle, city officials this morning announced a development team for the project with a sustainable vision.

Urban Green Partners of Columbia and Leon N. Weiner and Associates (LNW&A for short) of Wilmington, Delaware plan to construct 79 homes, including 59 duplexes and 20 single-family homes, on a nine-acre site in the 2700 block of Tivoly Avenue, as well as the 2700 blocks of Fenwick and Hugo avenues situated across from Clifton Park.

All of the homes will source their power from renewable energy sources—a concept dubbed “net zero”—including solar power and heating systems. The materials for the homes will be manufactured by local robotics and tech firm Blueprint Robotics, based on Broening Highway.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the project would be Baltimore’s first net-zero community.

The costs are expected to be far higher than the average home in the neighborhood known as CHUM. Duplexes will go for $250,000 to $260,000, and the cost of the single-family homes will range from $280,000-$290,000.

“One thing that I want to recommend to everyone is that you’re gonna have to get used to seeing people that are not from your neighborhood. They’re coming,” said Urban Green president Mark James at a presser this morning about their plans for the blighted area. “Why? Because you offer something great, which is a great place to live.”

City officials said this has all been more than a decade in the making. Coldstream Homestead Montebello, a historically black neighborhood near multiple top city high schools and Morgan State University, has suffered from chronic disinvestment and violence. Housing Commissioner Michael Braverman said for years that particular area on Tivoly Avenue was “among the most blighted spots in the city of Baltimore.”

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (14th District), who represents the area, recounted how in 2007, Tivoly Avenue “was so crowded with drug dealers in the street that you could not drive down that street.” She said residents left due to the flood of drugs and crime.

She rejoiced to see the block primed for redevelopment, even leaning spiritual: “This is the promised land here today.”

The councilwoman attributed delays in part to insufficient support from previous leadership at the Department of Housing and Community Development to raze blighted homes there. Ten houses were razed under the Dixon administration in 2008, and nearly 90 others came down in spurts during the Rawlings-Blake administration, The Sun previously reported.

The city also had to secure funding to demolish the vacants. Leaders worked with the state to secure than $10 million in funding for demolition, including from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Project CORE program.

Officials today credited Mark Washington, executive director of the Coldstream Homestead Montebello Corporation, for his “marketing” of the neighborhood and constant pressure on local officials to bring redevelopment to fruition. Council President Brandon Scott noted, “I cut my teeth in city government cleaning up these lots with Mark Washington.”

The site on Tivoly Avenue. Photo via Department of Housing and Community Development/Twitter.

James, of Urban Green when his firm and LNW&A reviewed the request for proposals put out by the city last summer, they saw “opportunities in the midst of those challenges” that CHUM has faced.

“We also live in a time when we need to see that the things that look like a vacant lot today might be where somebody will be eating their dinner tomorrow,” he said.

He also stressed that homes today can and should be built differently than they were 30 or 40 years ago, with an eye toward sustainability. “We know we can do things better.”

Urban Green and LNW&A are working with Living Design Lab as the architect, Kimley Horn as the civil engineer and Setty & Associates as the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineer.

The project will also bring job-training programs to the neighborhood thanks to its solar energy component, with Power 52 and Civic Works planning to work with renewables-specializing Edge Energy to train workers.

James said he hopes to hear from neighbors before construction begins through three community meetings–he called them “charettes”–to hear what they want from the new development.

“We don’t want to have anyone say that we weren’t concerned about the people, and that we weren’t concerned about getting feedback,” he said.

He said construction will happen in two phases, with 39 homes built in the first and 40 more in the second.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
Ethan McLeod
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