Chasen Cos.wants to overhaul streetscape for proposed Harbor East projects

In taking on the redevelopment of two massive brick buildings in Harbor East, developer Chasen Cos. will also seek to bring activity and an improved pedestrian experience to the streets surrounding the project that will stretch an entire city block.

Architects and designers for the development shared plans with a city panel Thursday to repair large portions of the sidewalks, remove curb cuts, add plantings and bring outdoor seating and other improvements to the proposed redevelopments at 1400 Aliceanna St. and 600 S. Caroline St. 

 

Ultimately, the developer hopes to create a more walkable experience for pedestrians traveling between the city's Harbor East and Fells Point neighborhoods.

"We see Caroline and Aliceanna streets as main pedestrian corridors, with Caroline as the north-south connection and Aliceanna as the east-west connection between Fells Point and Harbor East," said Nate Pretl, director of government and city relations for Chasen. "600 South Caroline is the transitional point between the two neighborhoods and needs activity at the street level."

At Caroline Street — where Chasen has proposed to convert the longtime Meyer Seed Co. headquarters into a 172-unit apartment building anchored by 41,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space — the conditions of the sidewalk are "rough" said Carla Ryon, chief planner at civil engineering firm Colbert, Matz, Rosenfelt Inc. 

The block of Caroline Street next to the project has three existing curb cuts totaling 86 feet that the developer plans to remove. Chasen will also replace the sidewalk as an in-kind contribution so that it matches the pattern along neighboring Fleet Street.

Pretl said he expects the change to make a significant difference for locals. He pointed to a recent aerial photo that shows roughly a half-dozen cars parked on the sidewalk in front of the building.

"The conditions are so poor and such a mess right now, and that's represented by cars parking where people should be walking," he added.

When complete, the improved block of Caroline Street will include outdoor seating where the sidewalk is wide enough to accommodate it, and serve as an entry to the ground-floor retail.

 

Chasen's plans also call for a second-story outdoor courtyard atop the 600 S. Caroline St. project and overlooking Fleet, Caroline and Aliceanna streets. The space is designed to bring even more "visual activity" to the site, Pretl said, and will be for residents of the planned apartment complex. 

Members of the city's Urban Design and Architecture Advisory Panel (UDAAP) overall responded positively to the landscape and streetscape plans for both projects, providing minimal comments for revision. They did, however, urge the project's designers to reconsider how they plan to use the narrow Spring Street alley between the buildings.

 

Currently, plans call for the alley to be an area for trash pickup, deliveries and moving vans. But UDAAP members offered a reminder that those services happen relatively infrequently compared to pedestrian activity, and urged them to find a way to also make it a safe, useable space for the building's residents and others in the community.

 

Pretl said he and other members of the design team will continue to review those comments noting, "We do not disagree with them, we think it can accomplish both purposes as well."

He added that the space could be used for programming such as a block party or other activities.

"We have taken their comments to heart and will be exploring how to make it as much of an asset to the neighborhood and community as possible," Pretl said.

The Chasen team also received positive feedback on the minor design changes made to plans for the 1400 Aliceanna St. project in response to the panel's comments during the last review in November. The development will hold 100 apartments and 12,200 square feet of retail with amenities including a movie theater room, billiards lounge and more.

UDAAP is overseeing the review process for the 1400 Aliceanna St. building, while the 600 S. Caroline Street development is under the purview of the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP). The commission gave scale and massing approval to the Caroline Street project earlier this month.

Next, the Chasen team will return to CHAP in February for a full board vote on the building design, said Drew Peace, head of business development at Chasen. It's unclear yet whether the developer will need to come before UDAAP for a final public review of 1400 Aliceanna Street, or if revisions can be worked out in staff meetings, Peace added. 

"I certainly appreciative of the (UDAAP) panel members and their recognition of the close attention we paid in addressing their comments," Peace said.