After 13 years, West Baltimore mega-development begins to take shape (Photos)


By Melody Simmons  –  Reporter, Baltimore Business Journal

The horizon of West Baltimore’s Poppleton community has sprouted two new additions: The first buildings of a sprawling, $800 million development that will welcome new tenants in August.

The 32-acre development, called Center West, is located just west of Martin Luther King Boulevard at Fayette and Schroeder streets and is planned to ultimately hold 1,600 apartments and 3.2 million square feet of residential and commercial space in about a decade.

By mid-2018, the complex will officially open for business. It will offer apartments with high-tech and energy efficient features, a “resort-style” pool deck, 18,000 square feet of ground-evel retail and large residential windows with vistas of sunrises and sunsets on Baltimore’s horizon.

“It’s been 13 years in the making,” said Daniel Bythewood Jr., president of New York-based La Cite Development LLC, on Thursday, of the circuitous path to the groundbreaking Jan. 18.

Financing woes, the Great Recession, planning and revisions and a skeptical pass through City Hall while pursuing a $58.9 million tax increment financing package in 2015 marked some of the holdups in the project that was first unveiled under the administration of former Mayor Martin O’Malley.

Today, though, that is all in the rear-view mirror. Bythewood said that beginning in 2019, La Cite is planning to add about 400 new units per year to the development. Rental prices for the studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units have not yet been set.

The two multi-family buildings going up this year are located at 101 and 201 N. Schroeder St. and stretch well above the traditional two- and three-story row homes in the community anchored by the University of Maryland BioPark to the east.

Construction is expected to last through the spring, Bythewood said, with up to 130 workers buzzing around daily.

The City Council approved the TIF for Center West in mid-2015 and the first sale of bonds totaling $12 million was made for the initial phase last year, Bythewood said.

Besides infrastructure for the two apartment buildings, two public parks will be created in the coming year with some of the TIF funds: a dog park and a small pocket park outside of the historic Edgar Allen Poe House that is located adjacent to the 201 N. Schroeder St. building at the Poe Homes public housing development.

The Center West project is among several others in the Poppleton community including a redevelopment of the Hollins Market by developer Scott Plank’s War Horse Cities and continued growth of the BioPark.

“I think the neighborhood is going to transform with the new housing, the growth from the UM BioPark and the growth of what Scott and War Horse are building,” Bythewood said. “And we’ll collectively be able to completely transition this portion of the west side through office, biotech and housing and keep people in the neighborhood.”