Po­ten­tial de­vel­oper pro­motes a new plan for Fort Howard

400-home pro­posal meets with skep­ti­cism at meet­ing

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Pamela Wood pwood@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/pwoodreporter

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.

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