The University of Baltimore on Wednesday named Zahlco as the intended developer of a university-owned 2.35-acre site at the northwest corner of Maryland Avenue and Oliver Street.
Zahlco’s proposed project for the site includes two substantial buildings to activate the midtown location with residences, retail space and associated amenities. The project is not contingent on public financing. It will be built in two phases, and the estimated private investment is more than $150 million.
One of the project’s buildings will offer 30,000 square feet of street-level retail space, with several floors above containing 235 market-rate apartments and dedicated indoor and outdoor amenity space.
This building will adapt, transform, and build upon an existing concrete structure—the former U.S. Postal Service vehicle maintenance facility —with the adaptive reuse providing a safer, more environmentally responsible development than the alternative of demolition.
The other building will involve the construction of a 350-unit high-rise and a new parking garage, both overlooking the Jones Falls Expressway. This development “will add a landmark to the university’s presence in midtown, while establishing a more attractive element to the urban fabric on and around the adjacent Penn Station property, as well as improved walkability for pedestrians and commuters,” according to an announcement posted on the university’s website.
The university’s announcement of a lead developer enables Zahlco to begin discussions about design proposals with Baltimore’s Department of Planning and to make preliminary financing arrangements.
Partnering with Zahlco on this project is Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures, a minority- and women-owned business headed by Dr. Gina Merritt. The architect is BCT Design Group.
As the developer’s work progresses, the University of Baltimore will pursue the needed approvals by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and the Maryland Board of Public Works, with the objective of reaching a proposed ground-lease agreement with Zahlco in the fall 2023 that authorizes development of the property.
“This project, conceptualized by the Zahlco team and vetted by the University’s experts in consultation with the USM [University System of Maryland], represents a breakthrough in how we think about the center of the city,” said University of Baltimore President Kurt L. Schmoke, in a statement.
“From the time of our announcement last summer seeking proposals, even looking back to when we first understood the importance of this parcel some years ago, the top priority has been about bringing together some of the best that central Baltimore has to offer. That’s Penn Station, the retail along Maryland Avenue and Charles Street, MICA, Mt. Vernon, Bolton Hill, and, of course, the University of Baltimore. There are so many great destinations within easy walking distance. Now, with this project, we have the gateway that brings all of it together. To put it simply, this is transformative.”
Based in Baltimore, Zahlco has been the lead developer on a variety of retail and residential projects across the city and in other communities. It was one of three groups that responded to the university’s request for proposals. The university said in its announcement that the team assembled by Zahlco for the Oliver Street parcel “brings a strong track record to the project.”
According to CEO Yonah Zahler, the development is intended to energize the site and the surrounding neighborhood, leading with a strong, mixed-use, transit-oriented development that emphasizes its prominent location amidst higher-education institutions, arts and cultural touchstones, and well-established neighborhoods.
“We’re honored to have been selected, and look forward to working together with UBalt on this landmark project,” Zahler said in a statement. “This development will help redefine the center of the city as ‘Midtown,’ an area bustling with activity and connecting Baltimore together.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information from the University of Baltimore.