Urban Landscape: 2022 was largely a year of planning, rebuilding

For Baltimore, 2022 was largely a year of setting up development projects for 2023 and beyond. Here's a roundup of the year's real estate and business news.

Urban Landscape: 2022 was largely a year of planning, rebuilding

Harborplace is slated for a rejuvenation under developer P. David Bramble of MCB Real Estate LLC. Photo by NCinDC, via Flickr For Baltimore, 2022 was largely a year of setting up development projects for 2023 and beyond.

Here's a look back at the city's biggest openings, closings, construction projects, and other real estate and business news of the past year. One of Baltimore's newest buildings took a little longer to complete than expected. When it opened on Inner Harbor Pier 1 last June, the $5 million education center for the USS Constellation had been in the works since 1999.

It's taken 'about 22 years,' said Christopher Rowsom, vice president of Living Classrooms and executive director of Historic Ships in Baltimore, the building's operator. 'But it got done.' Not every new building that opened in Baltimore over the past 12 months took 22 years to complete, but sometimes it seemed that way. The restored Peale museum, which had a grand reopening in August, was a five-year effort.

The Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center was 11 years in the making. For those hoping to see Baltimore experience another urban 'Renaissance' comparable to what residents witnessed during the 'Do It Now!' years of the late 1970s and early 1980s, 2022 was more of a rebuilding year than one filled with ribbon cuttings. A number of key projects were completed, including Baltimore Unity Hall, a $9.95 million center for arts, education and job training at 1505 Eutaw Place; the Creative Alliance's $5.2 million Creativity Center at 3137 Eastern Ave.

in Highlandtown; and Topgolf Baltimore at 1411 Warner Street. Lexington Market welcomed the first tenants to its $40 million new home downtown. The city's first Lidl grocery store opened at Northwood Commons.

But much of the activity was behind the scenes, involving projects that have the potential to be transformative but haven't yet opened to the public. Some are under construction, such as Penn Station shrouded in scaffolding; the CFG Bank Arena with its indoor webcam showing progress; and the giant pit from which the Johns Hopkins University's $250 million student center will rise. Others haven't gotten to the construction stage but are going through design reviews and lining up financing.

If one added up the cost of all the projects in the pipeline for downtown Baltimore, between those now under construction and those on the drawing boards — think Harbor Point, the Port Covington area, new housing in East Baltimore, and more — the figure would exceed the capital investment made in the 1980s. The past year brought both signs of progress and setbacks, including an emergency building demolition in Mount Vernon and the abrupt closure of the just-restored Parkway Theatre on North Avenue. Will the new developments add up to another Baltimore Renaissance, a case where the stars align and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts? That is clearly the hope.

On the drawing boards Harborplace: One of the most important development projects that didn't have a grand opening this year but was the subject of extensive behind-the-scenes activity, was the Harborplace 'festival market' at Pratt and Light streets, the symbol for a revitalized Baltimore when it opened in 1980 but, in its current state, an emblem for how far it has to go. In April, Mayor Brandon Scott announced that P. David Bramble of MCB Real Estate LLC was selected to buy and redevelop the two nearly vacant pavilions, which have languished in receivership after the previous owner, New York-based Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, defaulted on a loan.

This month, a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge approved the sale. His order paves the way for the start of a 'civic engagement' process through which Bramble aims to arrive at a new shared vision for rejuvenating Harborplace. 'With the order in place, we will begin the hard work of equitably investing in one of Baltimore's most critical assets by engaging every neighborhood and any resident that wants to be a part of this process,' Bramble said in a statement.

'Inclusion will be the hallmark of our redevelopment process. We will reimagine this underutilized asset to create unique value for all of our communities. People like to count Baltimore out.

This project will show what we, as a city, are capable of – and showcase the best of Baltimore for our own families, the region and the entire world.' 'This is the holiday gift that I've been waiting for!!' Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) President and CEO Colin Tarbert said on LinkedIn. 'Baltimore City will finally have a reputable and local owner to collaborate on the transformation of this key site in order to position the Inner Harbor as an iconic destination once again.' The Plan envisions a new east-west bridge connecting Westport and Mount Winans to Port Covington and the South Baltimore peninsula. The design includes bike and pedestrian lanes, and integrates wetlands and resiliency berms to protect nearby neighborhoods from flooding, while continuing to enable boats to access Ridgely's Cove.

Credit: James Corner Field Operations. Middle Branch: A second transformative waterfront project is the master planning effort underway for the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. James Corner Field Operations and the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership are leading a team that has been exploring ways to reconnect a dozen South Baltimore communities to more than 11 miles of shoreline along the Patapsco.

Some elements of the plan have already materialized, including the $23.1 million, 35,000-square-foot Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center that opened last month in Cherry Hill. After a series of community meetings were held this summer and fall, the final plan is expected to go to Baltimore's Planning Commission for review and formal adoption in February. The draft report can be found at reimaginemb.com.

Westport: One community that stands to benefit from the Middle Branch planning effort is Westport, where Monkton-based Stonewall Capital plans to create a 43-acre mixed-use waterfront community with 1,500 residences, office space and parkland. But Stonewall is in a legal dispute with Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail, an organization that wants to use the same parcel as part of its route for a $10 billion superconductive magnetic levitation (maglev) system that would connect Washington, D. C.

with New York City. The two sides will face off next year during a hearing in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. A rendering of The Compass, a mixed-used development planned for the west side of downtown Baltimore.

Rendering courtesy of Westside Partners LLC. The Compass: Also still in the preconstruction stage is The Compass, the proposed redevelopment of the so-called 'Superblock' at Howard and Lexington streets, a mixed-use project that's been in the works with various developers for at least two decades. For months after former Mayor Bernard C.

'Jack' Young selected the current development team in late 2020, city officials touted the project as a key to the rejuvenation of the Howard Street corridor, along with construction of a new home for Lexington Market and renovation of the Royal Farms Arena, now called the CFG Bank Arena. 'If we could get all three projects going – Lexington Market, Royal Farms Arena and The Compass – you would have a new center of gravity in the traditional downtown business district on the west side,' Tarbert said in a statement posted on the Compass developer's website. But the team that Young selected, Westside Partners LLC, missed a June 2 'target' deadline to acquire 18 city-owned parcels needed to move ahead with construction, and one of its members, Landmark Partners, withdrew from the project.

During the Downtown Partnership's annual meeting in September, when speakers touted key projects on the horizon, The Compass wasn't mentioned at all. The $100 million project calls for a mix of existing buildings and new construction to contain apartments, offices, a hotel, parking, retail space and other uses. The first phase calls for 262 apartments and 400 parking spaces.

The sale price of the land is $4,500,001. Kim Clark, executive vice president of the BDC, said in July that the target deadline wasn't the absolute deadline, and that her office was still working with the developers on the acquisition of the parcels. Dan Taylor, managing director of Business and Neighborhood Development for the BDC, said essentially the same thing following a Planning Commission hearing in November.

Because it's in a city historic district, the design must be approved by the city's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), before any construction can begin, and no recent public hearings have been held on it by that review board. Christopher Janian, the founder of Vitruvius Co. and a member of the Westside Partners team, said in an email on Dec.

21 that the Compass development recently was awarded $500,000 from the state's Project C.O.R.E. program (Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise) to help fund site improvements. 'The project is moving forward and we've been working on various community, government and institutional partnerships to deliver a highly impactful development,' he said.

'There is encouraging momentum in the neighborhood led by the opening of Lexington Market and the impending opening of the CFG Bank Arena by Oak View Group and we're looking forward to sharing more details about the project's progress in the coming months.' A rendering of the proposed renovation of the Hendler Creamery building, via Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation Hendler Creamery: On the east side of downtown, part of the façade of the historic Hendler Creamery has stood for several years on a two-block parcel that has otherwise been cleared to make way for a $75 million, 290-unit apartment project called Hendler Creamery. The developer, Kevin Johnson of The Commercial Group, never moved ahead with construction after the demolition phase. Now a non-profit in the area, Helping Up Mission, has emerged as a potential buyer, with plans to create an 'urban green space' on the site, according to The Baltimore Business Journal.

As with The Compass, its plan must be approved by Baltimore's preservation commission before any work can begin. State Office Complex: Perhaps the ultimate example of behind-the-scenes activity is the Hogan administration's plan to move 3,300 government employees from the State Office Complex near Bolton Hill to downtown office buildings, filling vacancies there and freeing up land for new development near the State Center Metro station. Maryland's Board of Public Works has approved leases that will allow 12 state agencies to move downtown, occupying 934,000 square feet of space in structures stretching from the Candler Building on Market Place to the Metro West office complex on Greene Street.

The state also plans to transfer the State Office Complex property to Baltimore City for future development, and the Board of Public Works recently approved a $500,000 grant to Baltimore City to help the city plan the redevelopment. One of the area's gems is the Fifth Regiment Armory, which has been envisioned for everything from a grocery store to a performing hall. Visible signs of progress Baltimore Peninsula: Construction has been underway for more than a year at Baltimore Peninsula, the $5.5 billion, 235-acre 'city within a city' in south Baltimore that was previously known as Port Covington.

2023 will be the year when five new buildings open along East Cromwell Street, the main road that runs parallel to the Middle Branch shoreline. MAG Partners of New York and McFarlane Partners of San Francisco this year replaced the previous lead developer, Weller Development Partners. The new team is now seeking tenants for the buildings that Weller started, including apartments, offices and a Morris Adjmi-designed building with a 45,000-square-foot market and food hall that's connected to building with office and meeting space.

MAG and McFarlane also brought in a new design firm, AtelierTek Architects of New York, to revise the project's master plan Architecture and interior design firm H. Chambers Company has signed a 10-year lease to occupy 9,000 square feet of space at the soon-to-be-completed Rye Street Market in Port Covington. Rendering courtesy of Sagamore Ventures.

The first office tenant to sign a lease at Baltimore Peninsula, H. Chambers Company, is an architecture and interior design firm that's currently at Montgomery Park. Chambers hired J.

C. Porter Construction of Lutherville to build out the 9,000-square-foot space it leased at Rye Street Market and expects to take occupancy by spring. One company that's leaving the development is Baltimore Sun Media, which opted not to renew its lease at Sun Park, its sprawling white headquarters and former printing plant at 300 E.

Cromwell St. Publisher Trif Alatzas told employees this week that the company has leased office space at 200 St. Paul Place and that its new of