BCT Architects 

An 8-story tower anchored by a grocery market is planned for the corner in East Baltimore as part of the Perkins-Somerset redevelopment.

An eight-story, 185-unit apartment tower anchored by a grocery store is in the works for a long-forlorn corner of East Baltimore.

The $80 million project is the latest phase in the multi-layered redevelopment of the former Somerset Homes housing development near Johns Hopkins Hospital that kicked off last year. That project includes new housing, office and retail space in the community as well as a new elementary and middle school and two new public parks.

Plans for the apartment tower and grocery store show a modern brick structure with a glass-enclosed street level where the food market will occupy up to 40,000 square feet at the corner of Central Avenue and Orleans Street. 

The property has been a vacant eyesore for more than a decade. 

The project is part of a massive, $1 billion redevelopment on a total of 200 acres that includes razing the Perkins Homes public housing project and redeveloping it along with the former Somerset site in a public-private partnership. 

Baltimore received a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant in 2018 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help fund the project. Henson said city officials are working on a tax increment financing package for infrastructure and other parts of the project as well, to total about $75 million. It will be presented to the City Council this summer.

"This is an opportunity for us to take a large portion of vacant land and transform it into the type of development you will see a mile away," said Daniel P. Henson III, the city's former housing commissioner who today owns the Henson Development Co., a partner in the project with Philadelphia-based Mission First.

Renderings for the project were presented last week to a city design panel. Henson said the development could break ground by the end of the year after financing that will include state and city tax credits is lined up. 

Until then, he is seeking to sign a deal with a grocer to occupy the retail space. 

"We have talked to a lot of supermarket operations already," Henson said on Tuesday. "And we are moving forward with the building so it will be ready for occupancy. We are investing the money and have a design for it."

The designs by BCT Architects show the large structure that will be flanked by some surface parking and two levels of underground parking. One level will be for the grocery customers with 126 spaces, Henson said, and another level will be for residents. The project has a total of 266 parking spaces.

The mixed-income apartments will be the fourth multi-family project in the Somerset footprint. Henson and Mission First are developing three other residential buildings there. The total price tag for all four developments is $220 million. 

The retail portion of the site is key because it will serve about 500 households once it opens by 2024. The area has been in need of new retail and housing options for decades, Henson said.

"That is a food desert," he said of the busy corner that is located across the street from Paul S. Dunbar High School. "This is an opportunity for us to take use of a large portion of vacant land and transform it into an iconic development for the corner — one that you will be able to see about a mile to the south once it's finished."