Last week, on the second floor of the International House at 37th & Chestnut, multi-disciplinary real estate firm U3 Ventures held a public meeting about a planned development at 4224 Baltimore Ave.,  a large vacant lot adjacent to Clark Park. You may recall, we first told you about this project a couple of months ago. About forty people were in attendance, including transportation planners from the City, local business proprietors and retired residents.

The lot

Over a year ago, we first brought this lot to your attention, explaining that the space has been vacant since 2009, when Thylan Associates and partner Campenella and Associates tore down a historically significant building despite neighborhood objections. Thylan Associates received conditional approval for a 92-unit residential development based on existing zoning. The conditionally approved plan includes six parking spaces at the rear of the building, 36 bike parking spaces, and an area where some of the lot’s green space would remain. U3 Ventures has since entered into a partnership with Thylan to consider alternative designs for the site which would meet both the developer’s and neighborhood’s interests. This could mean including retail, increased parking, and additional units. This meeting represented the first of three community meetings which will help shape alternative designs for the site.

View from Baltimore Ave.

At the meeting, residents immediately expressed concern with the number of parking spaces and stressed that they did not want the development to target students or to include a pharmacy. One local real estate owner was against having any retail space at all, given that there is underutilized space elsewhere in the area. But Omar Blaik, founder and CEO of U3 Ventures, stressed that the design was just the start. The point of the meeting, he said, was to directly incorporate community feedback into the design process.

To facilitate this, U3 Ventures broke the meeting down into four groups, including retail, design, parking/transit and unit type. After half an hour of residents hashing out their issues, each group had a representative state their primary concerns. Perhaps not surprisingly, parking, parking and parking were major concerns of most residents, but the quality of the architecture and how the project complemented Clark Park also came up.

There will be two more meetings in the coming months which will present a more finished version of the design. But in the meantime, residents can get involved in the process by visiting a website called that was designed specifically for the development. Concerns raised at the meeting will serve as the threads on the website’s forum, where residents may continue to make suggestions and debate design decisions. A representative of the Spruce Hill Community Association has volunteered to moderate the forum.

We’ll keep a close eye on this project, and will bring you some updates as soon as additional details emerge.

–Alex Vuocolo