Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Senator's Intervention: Misguided

One can argue whether Morgan really had to expand its campus further and cross Hillen Road to create those two large landmark buildings, the completed business center designed by Kohn Peterson Fox and the new  Behavioral Science building designed by Cho, Benn, Holback now under construction. Or if those two buildings constitute overkill in a construction bonanza that seems to overtake the strive for excellence in education.
Senator Carter Conway (2014, The Daily Record)

But one can hardly take issue with Morgan's goal for additional student housing, even if they are not the ones constructing it.

Nor can one dispute that the Northwood Shopping center would need some major overhaul.

Or that building a mixed use center with buildings replacing bleak parking lots would generally be a great idea.

Nor can one seriously argue that a four story mixed use center would make an appropriate transition between a community and a college campus with purchase power to revive the center coming from both ends.

Unless one's name is Joan Carter Conway and one is a State Senator with an urgent sense to insert oneself into Morgan's business and into local land use, a private investment, at that.

The Senator should know better than to hitch her horse to the NIMBYism of one community association that came out against the student housing on the grounds of, you guessed it: density, traffic and parking, the trifecta of anybody who wants to kill any development. Four story student housing can't really overpower anything, not even residences across Argonne Street. Two other local associations favor the project.
The Northwood Shopping Center with the new Morgan School of Business to the right and two story townhomes
on the other side of Argonne

I do not pretend to know all the details of the project ,issues in the area or all the players; nor do I have detailed information about the proposed mixed use development. There may very well be some kinks to be ironed out as Gerry Neily proposes in his Brew comments on Ed Gunts very factual articles. Maybe Argonne Drive needs more attention, maybe the obligatory raoundabout inside the development is silly. The designers, Martin Architectural located in Philadelphia and Annapolis gave Baltimore the design of McHenry Row and developer Mark Renbaum would probably be willing to discuss modifications.

But a Senator sponsored State bill to prevent Morgan to place students on the shopping center site even if it is a private development? That's like positioning a full size tank to kill a mosquito. Not to mention that the tank is positioned outside one's own borders. Aside from the fact that such a bill is likely dead on arrival, its mere introduction may already have killed the $50 million project.

A university president like Wilson walking in the minefield of the HBCU lawsuit and all the mumbo-jumbo going on with that (Should Morgan take over UB?) can ill afford to get into a war with a State Senator who chairs the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Rendering of the proposed mixed use redevelopment (Martin Architectural)
It continues to amaze how Baltimore can trip itself so frequently by employing the most myopic tactics and arguments when an opportunity arises to do something that would actually be transformative,  Such as converting a failing strip shopping center into a dense urban development.

In the interest of Morgan University and the communities one can only hope that the parties will come to their senses before the development has been fully killed.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Links:
SUN article
Brew article
Brew article on original clash