A 12-acre development parcel in North Roland Park would become the site of a 157-unit, seven-level luxury apartment building if developers move ahead with plans presented yesterday to Baltimore’s Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel.
The Overlook at Roland Park is the working name of the project, which consists of five levels of apartments over two levels of parking with space for about 289 cars.
The estimated cost of the project is $40 million to $50 million, and it would be privately financed. The developers are aiming to get construction approvals in time to start building by the end of this year and open by mid-2019.
The site is a wooded hillside just east of Belvedere Towers, a nine-level apartment building at 1190 West Northern Parkway, near the intersection of Falls Road and Northern Parkway.
Belvedere Towers was acquired last year for $30.2 million by a group controlled by Jonathan Ehrenfeld, president of Blue Ocean Realty in Baltimore. When it was built in the mid-1960s, the owner had plans to build a second residential project on 12 acres east of Belvedere Towers but never moved ahead with construction.
Now another development team, also controlled by Ehrenfeld and Blue Ocean Realty, has the undeveloped 12-acre parcel under contract and wants to build on it. The team has hired Ron Brasher of Brasher Design to be the architect. MEI Real Estate, headed by Sandy Marenberg, would operate the building for the development team. Younts Design is responsible for signs and graphics.
This is the second development team to air plans for the 12 acres in the past several years. A group that included homebuilder Lawrence Rosenberg had plans to build 174 apartments on the property but ended up not buying it.
For 50 years, there was a covenant on the property that restricted the number of units to 100 or fewer. The covenant expired several years ago, and the maximum number of units is dictated by the zoning for the land, which is partly zoned R-6 and partly zoned R-1. The developers say they don’t need any change in zoning to build the project they presented yesterday. They say they will use the R-6 land for the seven-level building and the lower-density R-1 land for open space around it.
Under Brasher’s plan, access to the Overlook project would come from the same entrances and driveway off Falls Road that residents use to get to Belvedere Towers. He said the new building would be only about five feet taller than Belvedere Towers.
Unlike Belvedere Towers, which is essentially a long slab with apartments facing east and west, the new building would be E-shaped in plan, with apartments facing courtyards on the west side and facing North Roland Park houses on the east side.
The exterior would be clad in “cementitious panels” that look from a distance like masonry or wood, depending what color is selected. The project would have amenities such as balconies, an infinity pool, and a green roof. There would be no stores or restaurants.
Marenberg, the head of MEI, said The Overlook is intended to attract medical professionals and others who want to live in North Baltimore. Brasher said the apartments would be larger than average and there will be more than 1.5 parking spaces per unit. “It’s anticipated to be a high-end rental” development, he told the panel.
Brasher said the developers will need to cut down trees to build the apartments but will have an extensive planting plan for the site. The land also has extensive rock outcroppings, he said. A landscape architect will be named soon, he added.
Because the land has been privately owned for the past 50 years, it has not been accessible to the general public. Most of it is not visible from city streets.
Unlike land owned by the Baltimore Country Club, which was the subject of a heated rezoning debate last year, community residents do not have shared memories of sledding down the hill or even walking there. And because there have been plans for additional residences since the 1960s, community residents have been aware that it could be developed.
The review panel took no action on the design proposal since the presentation was billed as a preliminary discussion about a new project. The panelists were supportive in their comments about the building’s configuration on the site.
Shelley Sehnert, president of the North Roland Park Association, attended the 90-minute design review meeting yesterday. She said her organization is just learning about the project and has not taken a position on it.
Marenberg and consultant Al Barry of A. B. Associates said the development team would work with the community as the project goes through the permitting process.
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