Baltimore's Most Promising Mixed-Use Projects
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Real Estate Bisnow (BALT)

Baltimore's Most Promising
Mixed-Use Projects

When the metro's biggest developers gathered at the Loews Annapolis Hotel Thursday for Bisnow's Future of Annapolis & the B-W Corridor event, the one word they couldn't stop uttering was “mixed-use.” (They're all about mixed-use, not mixed vocabulary.) Here's what they have coming.

1) Aerotropolis

Heffner & Weber president Mitch Weber envisions a TOD on the grandest scale. The pure-play office developer (it started in the '60s as McCormick Spice's development arm) has rezoned the 4.5M SF it owns around BWI and wants to turn it into an Aerotropolis. That's a new urban-planning concept that's found success in Europe and Asia building cities around airports. BWI is a hub for not only planes but also trains, automobiles, and port traffic (which makes BWI one mode of transportation better than John Hughes' classic Planes, Trains & Automobiles). Heffner & Weber's property backs up to the rail tracks, and so MDOT is studying the feasibility of a mixed-use development on a platform over the tracks, as at Frankfurt, Germany's airport.

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It doesn't hurt that BWI ushered more travelers in 2013 than either Dulles or National airports, as our moderator, BWI Business Partnership executive director Linda Greene, notes. (And one of those passengers still has our luggage.) Mitch also sees potential for BWI's underutilized international terminal to become a regional hub for low-fare airlines, considering Southwest and AirTran's 2011 merger.

2) Columbia Town Center

Howard Hughes Corp is just 1M SF into its 13M SF of the master-planned reinvention of Columbia Town Center, says the firm's John DeWolf. He jokes that his goal in life is to get his project onto HHC's quarterly report, and thanks to Columbia's residential demand that doesn't quit and stellar retail market, he did just that. That puts Columbia in the company of Houston's Woodlands, Las Vegas' Summerlin, and NYC's South Street Seaport. HHC's first Columbia success is the Frank Gehry-designed former Rouse HQs-turned Whole Foods and office. Unsolicited offers prompted HHC to put the mixed-use building on the market last week.

The profit will help the company accelerate redevelopment efforts around Gehry's Merriweather Post Pavilion. 225 attended Bisnow's event, where John said Rolling Stone ranked Merriweather as the country's fourth-best amphitheater, while its attendance doesn't break the top 25. (Though, to be fair, this is the same magazine that said Ricky Nelson was one of the 100 greatest artists ever, so take it with a grain of salt.) The amphitheater is a big part of HHC's efforts to attract Millennials to Columbia. John also considers BWI critical to his company's plans, especially his desire to recruit big employers and their HQs. He thus also wants to see international flights pick up again here.

3) Maple Lawn

Greenebaum Enterprises' Maple Lawn (a former turkey farm) drew praise from every single panelist, including St. John Properties' Rick Williamson. (Flattery will get you everywhere.) His company is an office developer, but it's doing more and more development in mixed-use areas. Maple Lawn allows for 1M SF of office, 200k SF of retail, hotels, and 1,500 homes at varying price points. And so St. John recently finished a 135k SF spec Class-A office building at 8135 Maple Lawn Blvd. He just signed the first tenant, for 12k SF. St. John also has changed its Maryland Science and Technology Center office park in Bowie to the 800-acre Melford Acres and will include 2,500 resi units, three hotels, and plenty of retail. It plans a similar mix on 1,000 acres in White Marsh.

Though Bozzuto Group has refocused on urban development, Bozzuto Homes president Tom Baum says his company also loves Maple Lawn. It's working on Phase 2 of its condo development there, where units sold even through the downturn. It's all about walkability, he says. (These streets are made for walkin'.)

4) Expanding Around Existing Retail

At retail developer Greenberg Gibbons' redevelopment of the Laurel Mall, Phase 1 opened in April, and Phase 2 will open later this year incorporating residential, president Tom Fitzpatrick says. Mixed-use is becoming an important part of the company's retail planning, he says. Not only is it adding 30k SF of retail at Hunt Valley Towne Centre, it also converted some retail to office, and AvalonBay just signed on to build 332 apartments there.

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A Microunit Revolution?

Tiny apartment units are popping up all over the US, already making waves in cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, New York City, Boston, and DC. Developers say they're the perfect abode for Millennials and people who land in cities with a suitcase, laptop, iPhone, and not much else (your dreams don't need much space), and projects being built are getting gobbled up fast. But naysayers foresee a backlash against the small units, arguing the cost to custom-build a livable unit makes it not such an affordable proposition. We'd love to hear what you think: Are microunits the future of multifamily? Click our survey above to tell us your thoughts, and we'll publish results in a future issue. Also, check out our feature on microunits in our National Real Estate issue.

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