John Hutch, Partner, JP2 Architects, LLC; Don Kemp, Healthcare Studio Leader, JMT Architecture and Christopher Pfaeffle, Director of Architecture, Morris & Ritchie Associates recently gathered to discuss emerging trends and local projects that place reduced stress on the environment, contribute to the economic development condition and improve the lifestyle of residents and workers in Maryland.

Real estate as an answer to environment concerns

My viewpoint comes from a master- planning perspective and what excites me are the upcoming mixed-use and transit- oriented development opportunities that are being considered throughout the state. This includes the redevelopment of parking lots situated adjacent to MARC or light rail stations, like the recent MDOT RFP for development of the Reisterstown Plaza Metro Station. Society needs to be far less reliant on cars and these projects will help.

In Columbia, where I live and watch a transformation unfold everyday, The Howard Hughes Corporation is taking the community vision of Jim Rouse and placing it on steroids, by designing projects that reduce vehicular traffic to accommodate “live where you work” and “work where you live” principles in a walkable community.

I view what we are seeing as a hybridization of what we used to call mixed-use and creative adaptive reuse. While previously we saw the redevelopment of abandoned factories in urban settings, this is now being moved out to suburbia with failing shopping malls and golf courses. From simply a building perspective, I look at strategies like the Power House model that is occurring in Europe in which buildings are generating more energy than they are currently utilizing. This creates a true net zero or net positive situation and addresses the fact that commercial buildings represent approximately 40 percent of energy consumption.

DK: The use of solar power in commercial real estate applications has not hit its stride in the United States based on the amount of surface area that is needed for the equipment and the overall poor ROI with a steep upfront investment. There has been some success in parking lots with the panels doubling as roofs that provide shade for the parked vehicles.

CP: Companies are beginning to harvest solar energy on rooftops by renting space on the top of buildings. The long-term holders of real estate — educational institutions particularly — are doing a much better job these days of incorporating sustainable features.

Elevating the economic development condition

DK: The Merriweather District in Howard County is a flurry of activity addressing specific business and consumer needs, including a high-rise headquarters building with ground floor retail and a healthcare campus. Healthcare uses are also taking over traditional retail spaces with multi- practice concepts and urgent care facilities. MedStar has been a significant driver locally by reusing many high-visibility retail strip stores and retrofitting them into PromptCare facilities.

CP: Morgan State University is a model from a community engagement point of view with its partnership with MCB Real Estate to redevelop Northwood Commons. The Morgan Community Mile initiative educates businesses and residents about the importance of green jobs and what sustainability really is among other issues. Educational Institutions are realizing that walls are not built around their campuses and they need to seize the area around them and make it better.

JH: There is also a Barnes & Noble bookstore and a security building for Morgan State coming to that project. That section of Baltimore City is in need of a community gathering place for residents and students. Retail functions as a kitchen where everyone can congregate and this project will fill that void. In other sections of the City, it is amazing what a small supermarket will do for a community. It makes residents feel as if they are being served and they can remain in their neighborhood to shop.

DK: The Paramount Theatre concert venue represents the next step in an ongoing renaissance of an area that was crumbling for many years and continues to fill the real estate gap between the downtown casino and M&T Bank Stadium.

CP: Baltimore is home to arguably the largest development projects on the East Coast in Port Covington and Tradepoint Atlantic. The reverberation of jobs created at both cannot be understated.

Reshaping lifestyles and real estate interaction

CP: Wheelhouse, a co-living development that combines apartments, workspaces and social amenities, is a concept whose time has come in a neighborhood that has said no to virtually everything. It is the perfect answer to urban infill and consumers that don’t want or need cars.

JH: The economy has been strong for so long and we are finally in need of workforce housing. One upcoming project to fill that need is 3511 Clipper Road which is served by the Woodberry light rail station. It consists of 51 units and is within walking distance to restaurants, office space and is a light rail ride away from Penn Station and the CBD, thus reducing the need for a car. Look at the redefined mission statements for developers. It is all about rethinking community and creating a sense of place in underserved markets. This project fits that bill.

DK: Creating authenticity is trendy right now, but it is important that the space functions in the way intended. This is being accomplished successfully in food-related projects including R. House which still looks like a warehouse.

Originally published in November/December 2019 NAIOP-MD InSites.