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Historic District Faces Development Pressure

Neighborhoodsby Ed Gunts7:46 amNov 10, 20200

More apartments proposed in the Woodberry historic district

The developer who ripped down the millworker stone houses in Woodberry is seeking CHAP approval for another building on Clipper Road

Above: Katherine Jennings has her eyes on the yellow metal-clad building for a an apartment complex. In the foreground is the fenced-in area where she tore down historic millworker houses. (Mark Reutter)

Another block of apartments could be coming to Woodberry if developer Katherine Jennings wins city approval to construct a six-level building next to the site where she tore down two historic stone houses to construct another apartment building.

Woodberry Two is the name of the building that Jennings wants to build at 3535 Clipper Road, site of a former stapling and nailing device manufacturer. State records show the property was purchased by Jennings for $326,000 earlier this year.

Her plans call for tearing down the squat, metal-clad building to make way for the proposed apartments.

The Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) is scheduled to review the plans during a virtual meeting this afternoon.

UPDATE: CHAP makes an unexpected decision.

It’s the first major development in Woodberry that CHAP has been asked to review since the community become a local historic district in July,  and it will be a test for how the panel members react to plans for new construction there.

Earlier, the effectiveness of the historic district designation was called into question by a loophole in the law that allows a new self-storage building to replace the historic Schenuit Rubber Tire Factory just east of Jennings’ site.

On the site of this small (6,300-square-foot) property, Jennings seeks CHAP approval for a 51-foot-high apartment building. (Mark Reutter)

Jennings seeks CHAP approval for a second 51-foot-high apartment building at the site. BELOW: Residents watch in disbelief as the stone houses next door were torn down in May 2019. (Both: Mark Reutter)

Woodberry residents stand before what remains of the 170-year-old stone houses they had thought a developer agreed to save. (Mark Reutter)

Worry about Density

Community residents are voicing concerns about the height, density and lack of parking at the site.

There are already plans to build 180 new residences in the same area, including 99 in the historic Tractor Building at Clipper Mill, 30 on the Poole & Hunt lot and 51 at Jennings’ Clipper Road site.

This project would bring the total to more than 200 units.

Such density is allowed under the TransForm Baltimore zoning code, which designates the area a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) because of its proximity to the light-rail line.

Sheri Higgins, head of the Woodberry Community Association, said residents are worried about the impact of the latest proposal on parking and traffic in the historic district.

“The community is very concerned with the expected influx of vehicles” that will come with the new development, Higgins said in an email. “Public transportation is not yet a realistic or reliable option for Baltimore City. Residents usually do in fact bring two vehicles per home.”

Jill Orlov, a nearby resident, said she believes the appropriate height for new building should be two or three stories, not five or six.

As designed by JP2 Architects, the building’s proposed height is 51 feet. Plans call for five levels above grade and one level below grade on the west end and a second lower level on the sloping east end.

CHAP staffers have recommended to the commission that the height be reduced by seven feet “to more closely serve as a transition to the lower-scale neighborhood.”

The 3535 Clipper Mill apartment building (at left) would be a close match to the building on the site of the millworker houses. BELOW: the relative scale of the proposed building to nearby buildings. (CHAP Design Review)

The 3535 Clipper Road building (at left) would be a close match to Jennings’ planned building on the site of the former millworker houses. The only parking would be on the small lot between the two buildings. (JP2 Architects)

The scale of the building compared to nearby properties and the proposed east elevation. (JP2 Architects)

The scale of the building compared to nearby properties and its proposed east elevation. (JP2 Architects)

3535 Clipper Rd, East Elevation

Controversial Figure

Jennings ignited a firestorm last year when she demolished two 1840s-era stone houses after a representative promised to incorporate parts of the historic buildings in the new design.

The sudden demolition was partly responsible for the push in Woodberry to become a CHAP-protected historic district.

Plans on file with the city do not indicate how many apartments will be inside the new building. But it appears to be approximately the same size and height as the first building.

Meanwhile, her ex-husband, Larry Jennings, has finished demolition of two houses at 2005 and 2007 Druid Park Drive to expand a parking lot for his proposed Clipper Mill community. Those houses were less than a half block from the parcels Katherine Jennings wants to develop.

Larry Jennings made headlines over the summer by suing residents of Clipper Mill for $25 million because they testified against his projects at meetings of the Baltimore Planning Commission.

His lawsuit argues that residents raised questions that prevented him from starting construction, costing him millions of dollars.

Last month, residents asked a Circuit Court judge to dismiss the suit, calling it an illegal SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) aimed at silencing criticism and stifling free speech.

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