Developers of the PEMCO site presented two concepts to the Bayview Community Association last Tuesday, one residential-focused and one more retail-focused, but both with elements of retail and residential.
Earlier this year, MCB Real Estate, a Baltimore development firm that also recently purchased Dundalk’s Eastpoint Mall, bought the 20-acre site at 5601 Eastern Ave., across the street from Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
Both of MCB’s concepts offer access to the property via a north-south boulevard that could be considered an extension of Bayview Boulevard, but on the south side of Eastern Ave.
The retail-heavy concept features a large retail space (82,000 square feet in the concept renderings) on the east side of the boulevard, set back behind landscaped green space and a parking lot.
At the Bayview Community Association’s meeting, there was some discussion about what retailers could fill that space.
“We’re looking at just about almost anything,” said David Frederick, managing partner with MCB. “We had hoped a BJ’s [Wholesale Club] might go in there.”
Last month, the Baltimore Business Journal reported that BJ’s was planning on opening a store at 4701 O’Donnell St., near the I-95 on-ramps.
“We would love to put a Costco in if everybody was OK with that,” Frederick added. “Costco has said they wouldn’t want to be there, but I’m just saying.”
Bayview residents listened without emitting any apparent groans of opposition.
“Costco’s a pretty big box,” Frederick continued. “You’d be okay with that?”
No residents at the meeting voiced objections.
In late April, City Councilman Jim Kraft, who would have to introduce zoning legislation in order for any of MCB’s ideas to come to fruition, said that he would “not give them more than 60,000 square feet to any one retailer,” because people from Greektown “don’t want any big box retailer in their neighborhood.”
At the Bayview Community Association meeting last week, resident Janine Coye said, “We try to reinforce small businesses in our neighborhood, so we have to balance that, too.”
“I hope whoever we find to go there–I hope it’s not at odds with anything going on,” replied Frederick.
The retail-heavy concept also includes a major residential building on the western side of the property, across the access boulevard from the major retail space. The concept also includes two smaller retail spaces closer to Eastern Ave., flanking either side of the access boulevard.
Both retail-oriented and residential-oriented concepts have a hotel or additional apartment building at the end of the boulevard, on the southern portion of the property.
The residential-oriented development concept is fairly similar to the retail-oriented one, but has a large apartment complex in place of the 83,000 square feet of large retail space. Both the eastern and western apartment complexes would include retail space on their ground floors, per the concepts.
Frederick emphasized that the market will ultimately decide whether MCB orients the development toward retail or residential.
“You may be tired of hearing this, but it really depends on what the market wants,” he said. “We’re pretty conservative, and we’re neighborhood people,” he added. “We’re trying to do this right; I’m still not sure what we’re going to get.”
Elaine Welkie, president of the Bayview Community Association, asked for Frederick’s thoughts on traffic flow on Eastern Ave.
“There’s no question that the traffic’s going to increase based on what you’ve been used to for the last however many years,” Frederick said. “The city has already told us they’re not overly concerned about the traffic; they feel Eastern Ave. can handle it.”
He noted that the traffic light serving the entrance to Bayview Hospital across the street would also serve the MCB development.
Following his talk and a question-and-answer session, Frederick invited residents to look at the concepts, which included some renderings of what the development could look like from architectural and landscaping standpoints.
Some residents were impressed by the apartment buildings’ parking garages (four stories and attached to the apartment complexes themselves) and the way they were hidden by greenery.
“You see this stuff in really nice areas all the time,” commented Frederick. “There’s no reason you can’t have that here.”
A resident asked about the time frame for the project.
Frederick replied that, “all things going well,” his firm would ask Kraft to introduce legislation for the project as a planned unit development by Sept. 1.
“Unless everyone gets mad at us and there’s a huge appeals process, we expect to have approval from City Council by the end of the year,” he added.
The earlier part of the meeting saw some discussion on the environmental aspects of the project. A ravine landfill containing frit—a byproduct of glass- and porcelain-product manufacturing—had run north-to-south on the western and southwestern portion of the property.
Frederick said that his firm is experienced with environmental remediation.
“Every shopping center we buy probably has a dry cleaner in its history, and dry cleaners are the worst for environmental issues,” he said.
Frederick said that the contaminated area would be capped, with concrete and landscaping above it, and that no residential units could or would be built directly on top.
He also noted that he and his team are ultimately bound to do whatever the Maryland Department of the Environment requires of them in terms of cleanup and mitigation.
by Erik Zygmont