If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
Members of the Locust Point Civic Association visited the Fell’s Point Task Force last week to seek advice on how to keep community interests alive when working with large-scale development. In giving advice, Task Force members often looked back to what they considered their own mistakes and omissions.
Will Jovel, a board member of the Locust Point Civic Association, visited the Task Force along with Tony Vittoria, secretary of the LPCA. Jovel explained that while he believes that development is a good thing, he would like his community to have a more effective voice in the process.
“We’ve tried to become a little more proactive in how we’re represented when working with these developers,” Jovel said.
Locust Point has seen major development in recent years and ongoing. The Under Armour campus has expanded and is currently expanding on a large scale. The McHenry Row development includes, Jovel said, 300 residential units; 35,000 square feet of retail space in addition to Harris Teeter; and 900 parking spaces.
Vittoria said that no single project has been especially hard on the community.
“It’s not so much that a single project is a problem,” he said. “We’ve just reached critical mass.”
Put it in writing
“You need to have a [memorandum of understanding] with the developer, and get everything in writing,” said Task Force member Victor Corbin—president of the Fell’s Prospect Community Association—adding that Fell’s Point community organizations have only very recently begun such a practice. “I think when you have everything in writing, then you can hold them accountable to that,” Corbin said.
Joanne Masopust, president of the Fell’s Point Community Organization, called herself “cautionary tale” of what happens without a written MOU. She said that Regester St., the alley street on which she lives, has become the “staging area” for the project on the 800 block of S. Broadway that includes the Broadway Market renovations as well as new retail and residential space in the buildings to either side of the market.
“Once [the developers] start, they are not your friends,” Masopust said.
For apartments, consider tying on-site parking to leasing
Parking was a major focus of the conversation. Jovel noted that residents of McHenry Row aren’t necessarily required in their lease agreements to park in the garage attached to the development, and so may choose to park on public streets for free instead.
“Woodall, Stevenson and Fort Ave. have all experienced an increase in parking demand,” he said, adding that the young people working at Under Armour often move into “group homes” in the neighborhood.
“We want young people in the neighborhood; at the same time, there are four or five cars to one house,” Jovel said. “Not everything works out how a community might want, and we understand that.”
Corbin noted that an MOU could be written to require a developer to tie on-site parking to a lease—in order to rent at an apartment development, a lessee must park at that development. He said that such an arrangement was made with the Henson Development Company in the Fell’s Point Station project, but that Butchers Hill is “kicking itself” for not requiring the same of the developer of Jefferson Square, a 304-unit apartment project south of Johns Hopkins.
Both Corbin and Jovel acknowledged that nothing can be done about group homes.
Get involved early and often
Carolyn Boitnott, coordinator for the Waterfront Coalition, advised the LPCA to “get to know your planner” and to attend design meetings.
“Even if a meeting isn’t normally open, if you want to go, ask,” she said. “Definitely try to get in at the very very beginning of the conversation.”
Make them come back
Task Force members emphasized that any agreements made between the community and developers should specify follow-up meetings. In some cases, developers must agree to visit community associations a certain number of times per year, per the MOU.
Task Force member Joy Giordano, executive director of Fell’s Point Main Street, noted that in one instance, the community “filleted” a developer who had not stuck to agreements.
“Your community association is strong, stronger than you think,” Giordano said, adding that development overall is a positive thing that “makes people want to move to Baltimore and raises our property values.”
by Erik Zygmont