In Sta­tion North, new sign of growth

Wen­dell Pierce among in­vestors in $25 mil­lion apart­ment build­ing

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Natalie Sher­man nsh­er­man@balt­sun.com

As an eight-story apart­ment build­ing starts to rise in Sta­tion North, public of­fi­cials, com­mu­nity mem­bers and celebri­ties used the oc­ca­sion to cel­e­brate the re­nais­sance of the neigh­bor­hood — and call for more in­vest­ment across the city.

Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings and “Wire” ac­tor Wen­dell Pierce were among those on hand to mark the ground­break­ing of the Nel­son-Kohl build­ing, the lat­est in­vest­ment in a neigh­bor­hood that has evolved from a hand­ful of nightspots into a larger, more lively dis­trict.

Pierce is an in­vestor in the $25 mil­lion project by devel­oper Ernst Valery, which in­tro­duces a market-rate, mul­ti­fam­ily build­ing to the area, an arts dis­trict that the city and oth­ers have tar­geted for rede­vel­op­ment, thanks in part to its prox­im­ity to Penn Sta­tion.

Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake said the change in Sta­tion North makes it “one of the bright­est ex­am­ples” of neigh­bor­hood im­prove­ment. Cum­mings also praised the growth, con­trast­ing it with va­can­cies of ear­lier days.

“Every time I would drive up here, I’d tell my wife that this should be an area that is bustling, and it is ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing,” he said. “We are ac­tu­ally see­ing it hap­pen.”

Cum­mings said he hopes the new build­ing will help ad­vance the progress, spurring the rede­vel­op­ment of Penn Sta­tion and other lots con­trolled by Am­trak, a long-stalled project that he has pressed the rail agency to get go­ing. Am­trak is sup­posed to an­nounce fi­nal­ists for a master devel­oper con­test next month.

“My next task when I leave here is to write a let­ter to Am­trak let­ting them know that I was here, let­ting them know that we’re ex­pect­ing great things very soon,” Cum­mings said. “This project in and of it­self hope­fully will cause Am­trak to re­al­ize that no mat­ter what, we’re mov­ing for­ward.”

The Nel­son-Kohl build­ing, lo­cated on a for­mer park­ing lot at 20 E. Lan­vale St. just north of Penn Sta­tion, is ex­pected to open in fall 2017. De­vel­oped by SA+A De­vel­op­ment, where Valery is a prin­ci­pal, the build­ing will house 103 market-rate apart­ments, a Milk and Honey Market and gallery space. (Valery and his wife, Dana, also ran the Milk and Honey Market on Cathe­dral Street, which closed in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the new lo­ca­tion.)

Valery also was in­volved in the ren­o­va­tion of the nearby Ch­e­sa­peake build­ing on Charles Street. The Bal­ti­more De­vel­op­ment Corp. started the prop­erty ac­qui­si­tion that led to the two projects more than a decade ago, en­gag­ing in an em­i­nent do­main fight be­fore reach­ing a deal with a pre­vi­ous owner who had let the build­ings lan­guish.

Valery said he has a 99-year lease on the land from Michael Shecter, whose fam­ily is a long­time stake­holder in the area.

The project, fi­nanced by a $15 mil­lion loan from Old Line Bank and eq­uity from other part­ners, is ex­pected to cre­ate about 180 con­struc­tion jobs and 25 to 30 per­ma­nent jobs upon com­ple­tion, Valery said.

Pierce, who played De­tec­tive Wil­liam “Bunk” More­land on “The Wire,” jumped in as an in­vestor in re­sponse to the 2015 ri­ots. He said he hopes the build­ing, and an as­so­ci­ated ap­pren­tice­ship pro­gram, will be the start of more eco­nom­i­cally in­clu­sive de­vel­op­ment through­out Bal­ti­more, which he de­scribed as his “sec­ond home.”

NATALIE SHER­MAN/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

U.S. Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings, left, and ac­tor Wen­dell Pierce speak be­fore the ground­break­ing for an eight-story apart­ment build­ing in Sta­tion North.

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