1,575 Housing Units Proposed for Mixed-Use Westport Waterfront Development

| December 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

On Thursday at Baltimore City Planning Department’s Urban Design & Architecture Advisory Panel (UDAAP), Stonewall Capital unveiled its master plan for the 43-acre waterfront parcel in Westport. The master plan has 1,575 housing units, retail, innovation/office space, parks, trails, and green spaces.

Stonewall Capital is under contract to purchase the parcel from Plank Industries, which is a partner in the Port Covington Development Team. The Port Covington Development Team is underway on a 235-acre, $5.5-billion development of Port Covington which sits across the Middle Branch from Westport. Plank Industries purchased the waterfront parcel in 2015, but never presented any plans for development.

In 2004, Turner Development proposed a development at the Westport parcel with 2 million sq. ft. of office space, 300,000 sq. ft. of retail, and 2,000 residential units, but never moved forward after it demolished the existing buildings and remediated some of the existing land. The property fell into foreclosure before finally being sold at auction to Plank Industries.

Stonewall Capital has a different vision for the property which is a transit-oriented development focused around residential townhomes and apartment buildings with some retail and commercial spaces. The Westport parcel is adjacent to a light rail station and close to I-295. It also has a long shoreline along the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River which will be open to the public.

Ray Jackson, owner of Stonewall Capital, said the theme of the project is “One Westport.” He said, “We want to be part of the overall community and not a new part of the community.”

Jackson said he will work with the Westport community, Westport CDEC, and the City departments to try to identify the vacant units and look to revitalize the existing community in parallel with the waterfront. He is in talks with Homes for America and Habitat for Humanity to bring both nonprofits in to renovate homes.

The master plan has 275 garage townhomes; an affordable housing development with 300 multi-family units; three market-rate apartment buildings totaling 1,000 units and 40,000 sq. ft. of commercial and retail space; and an 100,000 sq. ft. innovation center/office building. The development will have 11.8 acres of green and open space including a large park in the center of the development.

Stonewall Capital is working with MRA City Studio on the master plan.

Stonewall Capital is a land developer and will partner with development companies for the townhomes and buildings. Jackson described himself as a general manager who is tasked with putting together a great team.

The affordable housing development will take the southern-most parcel of the development called Parcel A. It will have a senior housing component, five-story buildings, and surface parking. Jackson said the affordable housing will have surface parking due to cost restrictions and also to give seniors in the community more space. This development is part of Phase I and Jackson said he already has a partner that is “the most reputable tax credit developer in the state.” Jackson said he doesn’t see any issues getting the tax credits to make this affordable project possible.

Moving north, Parcel B will be 275 garage townhomes. One street of the townhomes will face the Middle Branch, one street will face a green space between the affordable housing and the townhomes, and another street of townhomes will face a new park in the middle of the development. The rest of the homes will fill in the parcel and some will be across the street from the light rail station.

Jackson said he already has an agreement with a national homebuilder to construct the townhomes. He said the homes will likely have rooftop decks and rear-entry garages.

The next parcel moving north will be the park. It will be a multi-purpose space and it will connect with Wenburn St. in the existing neighborhood.

Adjacent to the north of the park will be a six-story, 350-unit, market-rate apartment building with 40,000 sq. ft. of commercial/retail space and a parking garage at Parcel C. This retail will face the park as well as a boardwalk facing the water.

Jackson said this will likely be in Phase I as well, though Stonewall Development does not yet have a partner. He said they will look to add restaurants and service-oriented retail, noting it’s too early to know if a grocery store could be a fit in the development. Jackson said retail conversations are difficult right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he expects things to pick up.

The next three parcels will likely be in later phases of the project. Parcel D proposes a four-story, 100,000 sq. ft. innovation center/office building with a parking garage. Jackson said he’s already had conversations with Baltimore Community Rowing about being a potential user of the building.

Parcel E proposes a five-story, 250-unit apartment building with a parking garage. Parcel F proposes a six-story, four-unit apartment building with a parking garage and surface parking.

The development also proposes green spaces along the waterfront with a .66-mile pedestrian trail that connects to the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network. This would connect with a proposed pedestrian bridge between Port Covington and Westport on the northern section of the parcel. The Port Covington Development Team, South Baltimore Gateway Partnership (SBGP), the City of Baltimore, and the Parks and People Foundation received a grant to begin initial engineering on the bridge earlier this year.

Kloman St. on the southern half of the parcel sits in-between the light rail tracks and CSX tracks. Stonewall Development is proposing moving Kloman St. east and using the current section of Kloman St. as a future green space with a trail.

Stonewall Capital is also working with the City to control a five-acre park space north of the development to build a multi-purpose field that honors the former Baltimore Black Sox of Negro League Baseball. The Black Sox Stadium was once at the site of the Wheelabrator Baltimore trash incinerator facility, which is on a peninsula just north of this parcel. Jackson wants to work with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation to make this a reality and he also envisions a monument honoring this history. Westport is also where late Baseball Hall of Famer Al Kaline grew up.

UDAAP offered some criticisms of the layout of the project and the street grids and wanted to see more definitive concepts. Jackson said he’s already meeting with his engineers to improve the plan. The project will go before UDAAP again in early 2021.

Jackson hopes to break ground in the next 12 months with infrastructure work and construction of the park and then vertical construction.

Jackson will meet this week with Northeast Maglev, the group looking to bring the Superconducting Maglev (SCMAGLEV) to the northeast corridor of the United States. This is a high-speed train project that hopes to eventually connect Washington, D.C. to New York City. Northeast Maglev aims to build a Baltimore station in Cherry Hill, just south of the Westport parcel, in Phase I. Phase II of the project will begin the connection to cities north of Baltimore and it will need a section of the Westport parcel to gradually get the train underground so it can tunnel under Downtown.

According to the FAQ on Northeast Maglev’s site, a viaduct when completed is 46 ft. wide and needs a 72 ft. wide work zone to build it. Most portions of the Westport waterfront parcel appear to be deeper than 400 ft. according to Google Maps.

Jackson said he will listen to them and draw up a contingency plan for the development. He said the SCMAGLEV would likely purchase land from Stonewall for its tracks and tunnel.

There is a BGE substation adjacent to the Westport waterfront parcel. Jackson said as far as he knows BGE has no plans to shut it down.

Westport Neighborhood Association Acting President Keisha Allen said her organization is familiar with Stonewall Capital’s plan after meeting with Jackson. She said they submitted thoughts on the project to Jackson and noted they are encouraged by his vision of “One Westport.”

The Westport Community Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) is a non-profit that focuses on social and economic development in Westport and adjacent communities. Westport CEDC Executive Director Lisa R. Hodges-Hiken offered some criticisms of the project to SouthBMore.com.

She said her organization is concerned about the density proposed for the project, the connection to the waterfront, and how children who live at the new development will get to Westport Elementary School. She said they want to see more recreational activities at the project for children,

Hodges-Hiken says Westport CDEC wants to see a a “transformational project” and something “more exciting design-wise.” She thinks this would require a public subsidy such as Tax Increment Financing (TIF) or a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT). Jackson said he is not pursuing public financing for the project.

“We are hopeful, but cautious,” said Hodges-Hiken. “We worked with the developers who had an option on the site before and they decided to not move forward. We don’t want to just see anything, we want to see something transformational.”

“We are encouraged that Ray Jackson is interested in keeping good lines of communication with us,” she added.

Renderings from Stonewall Capital and MRA City Studio

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