Published  Dec 12, 2013
Dec 12, 2013

By Jon Meoli

Featured in The Baltimore Sun

A community group in the Loch Raven area got a first look Monday night at plans for Loch Raven Commons, a $45 million mixed-use development with up to 200 high-end apartments, commercial space and a village green proposed for the former Raytheon site on East Joppa Road.

The meeting, which was held in Councilman David Marks' office, included the project's developer, the Buccini/Pollin Group, and an advisory committee comprising residents of nearby Towson Estates and Loch Raven Village that Marks formed earlier this year.

"This project has the potential to redevelop and beautify a blighted part of the Joppa Road corridor," Marks, who represents Towson, said.

The new design for the property, which is owned by the Buccini/Pollin Group, calls for a town square concept with green space tying the project's different features together, said Robert Hoffman, the developer's attorney.

Hoffman, who is partner-in-charge of the law firm Venable LLC's Towson office, said the apartments would be no higher than four or five stories tall and will feature first-floor garage space and surface parking around the buildings. Three retail buildings are also planned for the 9.35-acre site and will be utilized by retail, restaurants and a convenience store, he said.

Hoffman said BPG purchased the property at 1300 E. Joppa Rd. five years ago and tried to re-lease the existing building, but "it's just obsolete with regard to office use," he said.

When BPG's priority shifted from redevelopment, Hoffman said the group met with Marks, who was "pretty firm' in discouraging them from developing a big-box retailer.

BPG then hired Matt D'Amico, principal of architecture from Design Collective, to engineer "a good program for a mixed-use development for the site," Hoffman said.

D'Amico has designed the Maple Lawn mixed-use development in Howard County and has worked on the $300 million Towson Row project, which will comprise nearly an entire block and include retail, residential, office space and hotels.

Loch Raven Commons will need to be developed as a planned unit development, which allows for a higher density zoning designation than a property is currently zoned. A PUD stipulates the development must also fulfill a community need and provide a community benefit. The Raytheon property is zoned ML IM, which is given to major manufacturing uses. Neither commercial nor residential uses are permitted in the zone.

Marks had denied a zoning change for the property in the 2012 Comprehensive Zoning Map Process to ensure any proposed project for the Raytheon site would then be subject to the PUD process.

For the planned unit development, an application would be submitted to Marks. Hoffman said that wouldn't occur until after the feedback from Monday's meeting was considered.

Gary Herwig, president of the Associates of Loch Raven Village and a member of Marks' advisory committee, said of the Loch Raven Commons project that "generally, we all pretty much like it."

"I like the concept of these things, the commercial and residential all wrapped into one area," Herwig said. "I know Towson has a few of them under consideration now, and I think that's a good idea."

Two mixed-use developments have been proposed for downtown Towson, including Towson Row and 101 York, a student housing project just off Towson University's campus that will include first-floor retail.

Nick Linehan, a member of the advisory committee and chair of the Associates of Loch Raven Village's Development Committee, said he also thinks the plan "has a lot of potential."

"We have a really positive feeling about it," he said.

Linehan said he asked at the meeting whether one of the components of the project, which he said was a gas station and convenience store, was a good fit for the area. He asked the developer whether there were alternatives, and they told him they would look into it," Linehan said.

Marks said he is "pleased with some of the initial ideas" for Loch Raven Commons but looks forward to feedback from area communities as the process advances.

Said Hoffmann, "It's pretty early at this point. We would now go back, take some of the comments that we heard last night and try and come up with a final concept that we would like to present again to Councilman Marks. That's where we are."


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