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Design panel approves Remington Wal-Mart with more greenery

Shrubbery, decorative street lights, bollards and ornamental trees win over UDARP. Updated with community reaction.

version approved at UDARP 10 31 13

The front entrance of the 25th Street Station Wal-Mart project approved by a city design panel today.

Photo by: Walmart

Add greenery, glass, a pedestrian walkway and, voilà, a big-box Wal-Mart described as “bleak” by a city design panel a month ago found favor with the group today.

The Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel (UDARP) approved the layout and design of the 25th Street Station Wal-Mart in Remington, which means the project is set for final approval by the Planning Commission next month.

The project’s “cheap” design and multi-acre parking lot had come under criticism by the panel and some area residents. In response, Wal-Mart agreed to add window panels to its front facade, a pedestrian walkway through its main parking area and scatter trees, shrubs, bollards and decorative street lamps around the 7-acre plot.

The store’s basic layout and use of residential 24th Street as a main route for cars and trucks will remain the same under the approved plan.

Critic: Still Out of Character with Community

“I think the design has improved architecturally, but I am disappointed that the planning department did not address the underlying issue, namely placing a suburban structure in the middle of Baltimore,” Bruce Willen, a representative of the Old Goucher Community Association, said today.

Changes in the front facade of the 25th Street Wal-Mart's. The first design (top) was rejected by UDARP, while  the bottom design was approved today. (Wal-Mart)

Changes in the front facade of the 25th Street Wal-Mart. The first design (top) was rejected by UDARP, while the bottom design was approved today. (Wal-Mart)

Willen said denser use of the site – “one of the largest open areas in North Baltimore” – for a more diverse collection of stores and businesses could have sparked regional interest in the area and increased real estate taxes going to city coffers.

The Wal-Mart site is located in an “EZ” (Enterprise Zone) Focus Area, which gives the retailer a 80% credit against new property taxes for 10 years.

The pedestrian entrance to store (on lower level) from 25th Street and Huntingdon Avenue. (Wal-Mart)

The pedestrian entrance to the store (on lower level) from 25th Street and Huntingdon Avenue. (Wal-Mart)

In addition, the company is entitled to a $1,500 income tax credit for every new employee at the site, which automatically increases to $9,000 for an “economically disadvantaged” hire.

The site was originally part of the 25th Street Station PUD (Planned Urban Development) approved by the City Council in 2010.

The PUD, which extends east to Maryland Avenue to encompass the Anderson Automotive Group, has laid dormant as developer Rick Walker struggled with lawsuits and financial setbacks.

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart reached an agreement with Walker and the Anderson Group (which owns the underlying property) to carve out the western half of the PUD for the store and parking.

UPDATES:

Comments from Remington Neighborhood Alliance

Joan Floyd, of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance, who attended the meeting, said she was disappointed that the design UDARP approved did not address any of her organization’s concerns.

“Our concerns have to do with the health, safety and welfare of both the residents and the customers and with the quality of life for the neighborhood,” Floyd said, speaking to The Brew by phone. “Things like, where the driveways are and where the loading docks are.”

She said the loading docks have moved and changed from where they were going to be in the earlier design for a Lowe’s at that location.

“They’re higher by five feet, now and closer to the houses on 24th Street,” she said. “They also now will be unloading refrigerated trucks,” which are noisy and will have a greater impact on quality of life,” she said.

She also predicted traffic problems since there is only one driveway on 24th Street, where there had previously been two. Additional entrances are needed on Sisson Street, along with other fixes that could lessen the development’s impact on the neighborhood.

Floyd said she also is concerned about a number of other issues including disability access and safety concerns regarding the store’s elevator.

“I have asked to meet with Nina Albert [Walmart’s director of community affairs], but have not as yet heard back from her.”

Comments from Wal-Mart

We were sent this statement by Harry Hammel of Hillman PR, to be attributed to Walmart’s Director of Community Affairs, Nina Albert.

“We are pleased the Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel has recommended approval of our plans for a store at 25th Street Station in Remington. We have been working with the panelists and members of surrounding communities to create a design that reflects the character of the neighborhood.

“The store will provide city residents with increased access to a wide range of goods at affordable prices. Upon formal approval by the planning commission, we look forward to breaking ground on this project and to employing hundreds of area residents at the store.”

Location of the store, bounded by CSX Transportation on the north, Howard Street on the East, 24th Street on the south, and Sisson Street on the west. (Wal-Mart)

The proposed store is bounded by CSX Transportation and Huntingdon Avenue on the north, Howard Street on the east, 24th Street on the south, and Sisson Street on the west. (Wal-Mart)

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  • Gerald Neily

    I’m sorry that the historic church at 24th and Sisson Street would be wiped out. But the traffic impact at that intersection could be greatly mitigated by building a buffer island between the through lanes and the houses on the south side. I think I drew it up in an old Brew article somewhere. If anyone cares enough, I’ll dig it out and Fern can publish it again.

    • ham_snadwich

      Meh. That “church” has been a garage since at least 1950. You’ll note that every picture of the building is a tight shot facing north from 24th street. From every other angle it’s pretty obvious there’s not much to preserve.

  • green lisa

    this kind of thing is so ugly…i guess we want our city to look like suburban sprawl; someday we’ll regret it.

  • James Hunt

    No, green lisa, we won’t regret it. Someday–after this development pays millions of dollars in property and retail taxes to our cash-strapped city government–these 11 acres will be redeveloped once more. Maybe by that time the income level in the neighborhoods around it will have increased to the point where the site can be developed more intensively without causing the developer to lose his or her shirt. Or they’ll have increased to the point where most residents won’t need or want to shop at Wal-Mart and something more upscale will take its place. Regardless, what we’re about to get is far better than 11 acres of parking lots. At a minimum, storm water runoff will be better managed, which should make enviros happy, no?

    • snarkycomments

      Shouldn’t better managed storm water runoff make everyone happy? Even republicans don’t go around asking for more pollution in their lakes.

  • green lisa

    People with means move to the city, because they like small-scale city environments….otherwise they would stay in the burbs with their ugly monolithic stretches of big box stores….

    • James Hunt

      Are you suggesting that Remington is becoming gentrified? What happens to the low-income residents there now?

      • green lisa

        oh…i thought you were suggesting that, but now, in re-reading your statement, I see that you meant that you are expecting incomes to rise among the current population in Remington….but on Walmart wages?

        • James Hunt

          I’ll bet you that Walmart’s wage and benefits packages are competitive with just about any art gallery or boutique on 36th Street.

          • green lisa

            Walmart has notoriously rotten pay and benefits, relying on part-timers to avoid having to provide health insurance. If you want to know what it’s like to work there, read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed.

          • ham_snadwich

            I think everyone’s aware that Walmart pays low wages, his point is that small local businesses don’t necessarily pay any better.

          • green lisa

            Well at least the profits stay local.

          • Matthew Riesner

            And the same low pay/part time status and no benefits goes for just about every coffee shop, restaurant, book store, low skill in home labor, mall retail, etc. It has much more to do with having a service based economy than having a Walmart nearby. If we were to stop buying products made in cheap labor countries and ramp up production here, we could raise the standard wage…but we are not doing that.

          • green lisa

            I agree with you but working for Walmart, if Ehrenreich’s and other accounts are correct, is soul draining. They are somewhat fascistic….even to their customers….the one time I went into the Port Covington Walmart, late at night because I had an emergency need for a cat litter box, they checked my bag on the way out as if I were a criminal.

  • Andrew

    Wow, it look’s so much better now. Oh, wait….

  • James Hunt

    Here’s the deal, anti-Walmart people: there was nothing — and I mean nothing — preventing you from assembling a development team, raising the purchase price for the land, and making a bid to do something different on that site. “Developer” is a self-created job. It doesn’t require a college degree or even a real estate license (although that helps)–just a knack for basic math, the ability to manage people, enough cash to create an LLC, and the patience to listen to every freakin’ know-it-all in town tell you how to “do it better.” (Okay, there’s also the lawsuits when the know-it-alls get organized.). So, want a small-scale city environment (the Village at Cross Keys comes to mind)? Get organized and git’r'done. Plenty of vacant land in this here city.

    • ushanellore

      When you are not vituperating you should work for Walmart–they, I am sure, could use an erudite brainiac such as you, to stoutly defend their ilk and repulse their enemies with Aristotelian splendor.

      • James Hunt

        Not “vituperating” … “exhorting.” As in, fellow citizen, if you don’t like what you see, step up and do it better. Don’t like Walmart? Start one of the many, many businesses that have figured out how to do business in its shadow. Be the mammal to its dinosaur. With wages rising in China, it’s business model will be seriously challenged over the coming decade. Long-range forecast for Howard and 25th: Hopkins buys the property and the Center for a Livable Future (http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-a-livable-future/)–now occupying a relatively small space in Cylburn Park–is running a major aquaculture project in the Walmart space by 2025.

  • Tim Lee

    If it must be a big box store, let it not be Walmart. All one needs to do to see how Walmart runs it’s urban locations is take a trip to Port Covington or Washington BLVD. Compared with it’s competition, Target maintains it’s merchandising standards and security at Mondawmin and Canton Crossing(granted, a new location). If Walmart runs the same as it does in port Covington we may be in trouble. The store will be a nightmare. The merchandising standards askew, Attracting shoplifters, and all sorts of life to the area that would affect local businesses and residence alike. I’m not a fan.

  • MajorDamo

    To Councilmembers Stokes, Mosby, and Clark and my fellow Baltimorians:

    Thank
    you so much for all your hard work over the years on 25th Street
    Station project. I’ve been a Baltimore resident for 4 years, and
    excitedly joined the Old Goucher community this August precisely b/c I
    recognize it as a beautiful, active neighborhood on the rise because of
    the loving care it’s members put into it.

    So you’ll find me more than concerned about the possibility of
    the 25th Street Station project moving forward in its current form —
    I’M AFRAID. Ya see, I grew up in Bowie, MD. It’s a beautiful little
    community that used to be almost exclusively local business. There was a
    mall I spent most of my time when I was a kid. It had an arcade, a
    baseball card store, a movie theater, a grocery store, and a bunch of
    shops that adults needed to go about their lives. But that mall closed
    down about 2 years after Walmart moved in across town, and it’s been
    empty for almost 20 years!

    Not only did the mall close down, the entire center of town seemed
    to shift miles away to where Walmart had sprung up, and within a few
    years there were several more corporate retail projects springing up in
    the area, driving out even more local business. It was shocking to see
    my city change so much over such a short period of time. It was this
    experience in part that inspired me to help found Baltimore’s local
    currency – The BNote (www.baltimoregreencurrency.org), but that’s another story.

    I know dozens of people who have
    gone through this in their own communities, and now I see it happening
    here. Urban centers are Walmart’s new target market, and they’re using
    all the tricks they’ve got up their sleeve to get in here as cheap as
    possible.

    I really do appreciate all the time
    and effort you’ve all spent getting the concessions we have now. But if
    you’re afraid a Major Amendment will set us back instead of forward,
    DON’T BE! The neighborhood is waking up to this reality very quickly,
    and we’re aching to get organized but devastated by the idea that we’re
    too late! Some of us want Walmart out. Some of us just want a design
    that respects the historic nature of our beautiful neighborhood. Most of
    us are unhappy with what’s on the table right now.

    I and many others are moving here b/c we see a community on the rise.
    That trend will be significantly blunted by the current 25th Street
    Station design. I may even decide to move away myself, which would break
    my heart.

    Please please PLEASE give us more time. I promise we will not let it go to waste!

    Respectfully,
    Damien Nichols
    2100 block of St. Paul st.

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