The top planner of the Baltimore Red Line confirmed this afternoon that the state plans to move the Harbor East light-rail station a block west to accommodate the wishes of developer John Paterakis.
Henry M. Kay, director for Red Line planning, said the agency has settled on a new location for the underground station at Fleet and Exeter streets, on the southern edge of Little Italy, in place of the long-planned station at Fleet and Central Avenue.
“We are gearing up right now to notify elected officials and hold a community meeting [about the change],” Kay told The Brew.
Paterakis, the H&S Bakery magnate whose development arm built Harbor East, let it be known last summer that he wanted “no part” of the Central Avenue station, whose entrance would encroach on his brown-painted distribution warehouse on Central Avenue.
Paterakis wants to convert the building into retail space and apartments as part of a larger development along Central Avenue to include a new Whole Foods grocery store.
Collaborate with Property Owners
When Kay’s office heard that the Central Avenue station would not be compatible with Paterakis’ development plans, the office reached out to determine if a new location for the station could be found.
Acknowledging that the MTA has the legal power to condemn the Paterakis property, Kay said it has been longstanding MTA policy to “collaborate with property owners, not impose on them.”
“If we can avoid a conflict, we will,” Kay said.
The new station locale will not require additional funds because the two stations will be built to the same dimensions, Kay said. The new location will be in a more populated area, straddling the modest rowhouses of Little Italy and the high rises of Harbor East.
The station will be constructed under Fleet Street between Albemarle and Exeter. The station’s entrance will be at Exeter and Fleet.
“It’s not a big deal in terms of location; in fact, it may represent better station spacing, not worse,” Kay said, noting that the Red Line will run nearly a mile west from Exeter to Lombard and Light streets before making its next stop.
Paterakis’ clout as a top donor to state and city politicians did not play a role in the station relocation, Kay said.
The initiative came from his office alone, and was presented to and recently approved by Maryland Secretary of Transportation James T. Smith, Jr.
The relocation has delayed the planned start of the Red Line by a few months, Kay said.
Contingent on federal government approvals and state federal, city and Baltimore County funding sources – the Red Line is planned to start construction in 2015, commence “heavy work” between 2016 and 2021, and open at the end of 2022.
Kay said the MTA’s analysis of the new station locale has detected no “fatal flaw” in terms of displacing historic buildings or facing other engineering and environmental restrictions.
He said the new location, however, might require submission of a modified Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS) to the Federal Transit Administration.