The developer of 1000 S. Linwood Ave., currently a vacant warehouse, called Canton residents to a meeting on Wednesday to discuss his proposal to build a 5-story apartment and office building, with parking on the ground level, office space on the second floor, and apartments on the top three floors.
“The point of this meeting is for me to hear concerns,” said developer Ross Taylor, a resident of Canton himself.
“None of this is set in stone,” he continued. “There’s room for adjustment anywhere. You’re my neighbors; you have to live with this as I do.”
Taylor’s proposed project is 60 feet tall, with two 70-foot stairwell towers. It would contain a total of 21 apartment units—six two-bedroom units, 11 one-bedroom units, and four efficiency/studio units, for a total of 27 bedrooms.
He said that the caliber of his apartments would be on the level of Domain Brewers Hill or The Gunther, two recently completed, high-end developments nearby.
Taylor added that he would be seeking “class A renters” who would pay from about $1,800 to $3,000 per month.
“There’s been a lot of talk of renters versus homeowners,” Taylor said. “I’m marketing to Hopkins. These are people who are spending $2,000 a month in rent and have substantial jobs, just like everyone sitting in this room.”
The project would include 24 off-street parking spaces, one of which would be handicapped, Taylor said.
“A parking garage of any size is not possible,” he said, explaining that the size of the lot is too small to build a structure that could incorporate the ramps necessary for a usable garage.
He said that those who work in the second-floor offices—approximately 30 people, he said—would “share parking spaces with residents.”
“Hopefully people will live upstairs, across the street, or down the street,” he added, “and bike to work or walk to work.”
At one point, Taylor said, he had been considering building a parking garage, but at that point he had had 2811 Dillon St., a former location of Kennedy Krieger Head Start, also under contract.
“When I bought the building [1000 S. Linwood], I was also under contract with Kennedy Krieger,” said Taylor, “then Kennedy Krieger changed their mind. I lost the contract with Kennedy Krieger, yet the contract had already gone through with 1000 S. Linwood. So yeah, things change.”
A spot zoning change—from B-2-2 to B-2-3, allowing for more density—would be required for the project to be built according to Taylor’s current proposal. Sean Flanagan, president of the Canton Community Association, said that such a change would require legislation sponsored by City Councilman Jim Kraft, and that Kraft had indicated that he would only sponsor it with the community’s support.
“How do you quantify community support?” questioned a resident.
“One thing Councilman Kraft said he would like to see is a letter from the CCA,” said Flanagan, adding that the decision to send such a letter would come from the CCA board, “obviously minus one board member,” as Taylor himself is a board member and would presumably recuse himself from such a vote.
Flanagan said the board could vote to either support the proposal, oppose it, or neither support nor oppose.
He added that the CCA had requested that Taylor hold the meeting because “we wanted to get all the stakeholder input we could.”
Both Flanagan and Taylor said that Wednesday’s meeting at DuBurns Arena was the fourth time Taylor had presented his proposal to the community.
While current conditions require Taylor to obtain a zoning change before he can go ahead with his proposal, he noted that under Transform Baltimore, the complete zoning overhaul currently in City Council, his property and a substantial number of other properties in and around O’Donnell Square are slated to get the C-1 designation. Barring any amendments, 1000 S. Linwood could be 60 feet tall by right under C-1, should that property in fact be designated C-1.
Taylor said that he was pursuing the zoning change rather than waiting for C-1 because, for one thing, the zoning change would allow him to start construction sooner.
For another, Taylor said, he would prefer to “build something Canton wants, rather than by right under C-1.”
Taylor noted that no city hearings or reviews on his proposal had been scheduled; nothing had been scheduled beyond Wednesday’s meeting, he said.
He said he would continue to work with the community on the proposal “unless you tell me to go eff myself,” at which point he would develop “something by right..something I can live with financially—something that works.” At a couple points during the meeting—and not as a follow-up to the above quote—Taylor noted other development ideas possible without Kraft’s intervention. Under current zoning, seven four-bedroom townhouses could be built on the site, with one off-street parking spot each, he said, pointing out that the result could potentially be 28 new residents with seven parking spots.
Another possibility was a development similar to his current proposal, but instead of 21 apartment units there would be 16, which would require just eight off-street parking spots. However, at a different point in the meeting, a resident asked Taylor how many parking spaces he would allot for a 16-unit development, and Taylor said that he would keep the 24 of his original proposal.
Reaction and feedback
Of the 50 or so residents who attended, one man expressed strong vocal support for the proposal as is. Other residents who spoke up either questioned or criticized Taylor’s proposal. At times, the meeting grew contentious.
Residents’ main concerns centered on the overall size of the building and the parking impact.
“Parking has been insane for the last 16 years I’ve been here,” said one resident, adding that, should apartment units include “significant others” and guests with cars, the number of street spaces taken could climb into the 60s.
At one point, a resident asked, “What will you give the residents back?”
“What would you like?” queried Taylor.
Shouts of “Parking!” followed.
As for the overall size of the proposed building, one resident stated that “it just overpowers everything around it.”
His comment elicited applause.
“These projects keep coming into our neighborhood, and they’re just enveloping everything,” the resident added. “It’s too much.”
One resident asked Taylor if he had done any feasibility studies to determine whether the market would support the apartments he plans to build.
“Baltimore has not come close to market saturation,” Taylor replied.
He referred to an article in the “Baltimore Business Journal” that he said indicated that 5,000 new apartments were needed in the city to keep up with demand.
In July 2012, the Baltimore Business Journal published an article entitled “Downtown Baltimore needs 5,000 new apartments, study says,” referring to a study commissioned by the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore that reportedly stated that the downtown area of the city needed 5,000 new apartments by 2017.
Taylor also said that The Gunther and Domain Brewers Hill had opened recently, to high demand. Domain, he said, was 98-99 percent leased, and The Gunther, according to Taylor, “had more than 60 [leases] signed before the building opened.”
Resident Beth Manning questioned whether the market was still strong for high-price-point units.
“Domain, Union Wharf—all those offer amenities you’re not offering,” she added.
Later in the meeting, Manning asked Taylor: “You have a history of working with the community and lowering the height to support that. Are you willing to work with the community and lower it at least one level?”
“I would certainly look at it; I would certainly consider it,” Taylor said, adding that he was in no position to make any guarantees at present.
by Erik Zygmont