Eddie’s of Mount Vernon, the grocery store threatened with displacement by a 10-story apartment building, has found a new home one block away.
Developer Dennis Richter and Eddie’s owner Dennis Zorn announced yesterday that the grocery store will move next year from 7 W. Eager St., its home since 1988, to the lower level of the Belvedere condominiums at N. Charles and E. Chase streets.
The move will clear the way for Richter to construct his proposed apartment building in place of the current Eddie’s store and other structures on Eager Street, and it won’t leave the Mount Vernon neighborhood without a grocery store while the replacement building is under construction.
It also fills a large retail vacancy at the Belvedere and protects the jobs of 25 to 30 Eddie’s employees, who faced becoming unemployed if the store were forced to close.
In the same announcement, Richter said the number of apartments in the new building has increased from 126 to 165, but the number of parking spaces has been reduced.
He said he hopes to begin construction as soon as Eddie’s has moved to N. Charles Street in mid-2020, and wants to open the apartment building by the end of 2021 or the start of 2022.
At a well-attended community meeting last night, Richter said finding a suitable permanent home for Eddie’s, Mount Vernon’s only grocery store, was a key to moving ahead with his apartment project, which is expected to cost $30-35 million. He and Zorn have been working for more than a year to find a way keep Eddie’s in business, he said.
“The idea is for Mount Vernon not to have [a situation] where there’s no grocery store” during the construction period for the apartment building, Richter said. “It was very important to us.”
Zorn said he likes the new location even more than the existing one. He especially likes the idea of having a store in the historic Belvedere, which opened in 1903 as a grand hotel but has since been converted to condominiums with a lower-level mall accessible both from Charles Street and from the building’s main lobby.
Zorn said the move will give Eddie’s the opportunity to get all new fixtures and equipment and expand offerings that today’s customers want, such as grab-and-go items. The store’s new name will be Eddie’s of Mount Vernon at the Belvedere.
Richter said he and Zorn started out looking for a “temporary” location where Eddie’s could move while the apartment building was being built, with the thought that Eddie’s could move to the ground floor of the structure when it was ready for occupancy.
But the cost of moving to one location and then moving back to Eager Street proved to be financially unfeasible, Richter said, so it made sense for Eddie’s to look for a permanent location. It also gave the development team more flexibility on Eager Street, he said.
Richter acquired retail space in the Belvedere at an auction at the end of last year. He said the property he now owns there includes the former Red Square restaurant and additional space, about 5,000 square feet in all. He’s aiming to start building the grocery store by the end of this year and have it ready within six months.
Zorn said the current Eddie’s store has about 5,500 square feet of space, so the new location isn’t much smaller. He plans to compensate by eliminating some items that aren’t in high demand.
Zorn said he is working with a food wholesaler, United Natural Foods Inc., that will design the layout and provide other planning services for the new store. The main entrance to the new Eddie’s will be off Charles Street, but the loading dock for food deliveries will be on the east side of the Belvedere.
The still-unnamed apartment building has been in the works since 2017, when Richter first sought approval from the city to tear down Eddie’s at 7-11 W. Eager St., the former Eager House restaurant at 13-15 W. Eager St., and the former Comprehensive Car Care Center at 923 Cathedral St. He’s also restoring a 19th-century townhouse at 917 Cathedral St. as part of the project.
Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation gave preliminary approval to the design of the proposed building, by Ziger Snead Architects, in 2018. The panel approved the design even though the proposed building is 16 feet taller than the 100-foot height limit established in the city’s design guidelines for the Mount Vernon historic district. Richter said he is aiming to go back to CHAP for final design approval later this year.
He and architect Douglas Bothner, of Ziger-Snead, said the latest plans call for 118 micro apartments with 300 to 340 square feet of space; 33 one-bedroom apartments and 14 apartments with two or three bedrooms. There will be about 11,400 square feet of street-level commercial space spread over three locations, plus another 3,000 square feet at 921 Cathedral.
Richter said he changed the size and number of units in response to what he believes the market wants. He’s hoping to attract young people who work or study nearby, professionals who commute by train to Washington and empty nesters from the suburbs who want to move back to the city.
He said rents will start at around $1,000 a month for the micro units and will go up from there.
“We… found by studying the market that there are a lot of larger units available, but what is not available are the smaller type of units that are well priced [and] well designed,” he said. “This is a high-quality building, but we don’t want to price it so that people can’t afford to live there.”
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