Potential developer promotes a new plan for Fort Howard
400-home proposal meets with skepticism at meeting
A Baltimore developer with experience in historic renovations could be the next to try to redevelop the shuttered Fort Howard VA hospital in eastern Baltimore County.
Samuel K. Himmelrich Jr. of Himmelrich Associates said his company is considering a partnership with developer Timothy Munshell, who holds a 75-year lease on the Department of Veterans Affairs property but has been unable to move his development plans forward.
Himmelrich presented a concept for about 400 new homes on the property to a skeptical crowd at a meeting of the North Point Peninsula Council on Wednesday night.
He did not disclose terms of a potential deal with Munshell and said there’s no timeline for making a decision.
Himmelrich said he would convert the old hospital building, which closed in 2002, into homes, possibly for seniors. He said he would also restore historic homes on the property, and build new singlefamily homes and townhouses.
Sales and rentals of the homes would be marketed first to veterans, he said. The development would include a 50-unit facility for veterans at risk of becoming homeless — a requirement of the lease agreement with the VA.
Munshell called Himmelrich a “very good fit” as a potential partner.
“He’s got a portfolio of historic renovation projects,” Munshell said Thursday. “He’s a huge critical thinker in ways of doing things that I have not thought of.”
Himmelrich Associates has redeveloped several historic properties in Baltimore. The firm turned the former Montgomery Ward warehouse in Southwest Baltimore into the Montgomery Park office building, and transformed a London Fog facility along the Jones Falls into Meadow Mill, which includes offices, an athletic club and a restaurant.
Munshell said he hopes the community will support the revised proposal.
“We remain optimistic that we can work with the community, so long as the community wants to work with us,” he said. “There’s got to be some back and forth with the community.”
Several neighbors at the North Point meeting said the property should be redeveloped solely for the benefit of veterans. Others said Himmelrich’s plan seemed more acceptable than Munshell’s earlier proposal to build 1,375 housing units, a hotel, shops and offices.
To move forward, Himmelrich and Munshell need action from the Baltimore County Council. Councilman Todd Crandell recently persuaded the council to change the zoning on the land to a classification that allows one home per acre.
A redevelopment project likely would need approval from the council to proceed as a planned-unit development — a process in which the county may grant exemptions from zoning requirements in exchange for other benefits a developer might provide.
Crandell, a Dundalk Republican, said he has met with Himmelrich. He declined to discuss the merits of the project publicly until he heard from his constituents.
The Fort Howard property — about 100 acres on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay — has a long military history. British troops landed there during the War of 1812 before marching on Baltimore. Later, it was an Army installation nicknamed the “bulldog at Baltimore’s gate.”
The VA opened an inpatient hospital there in 1943. The hospital closed in 2002, but an outpatient clinic operated there until this year.
The property is now largely abandoned. Munshell has been cited by the county for allegedly failing to protect the structures from fire.