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Why Walmart Is Still Not A Reality In Remington

The Remington neighborhood in North Baltimore is about to get two big development projects: 25th St Station, anchored by the mega-retailer Walmart, and a main street-style mixed use project called Remington Row. Some embrace the change, some warily accept it, some want design adjustments, and others outright oppose it.

Mary Stout has lived in lower Remington since 1965, back when the area was known as Little Little Italy. “My next-door neighbors names were D’annunzio, Craganelli, Schiarapella, Pazadenti,” she said. ”You get the picture?” Stout’s next-door neighbor on Fawcett Street is her daughter, Page. She drives out to a Walmart in Cockeysville to shop, and admits that a closer location would be nice. But the loading dock will be a block away from her home. ”There’s going to be more traffic, I think, coming into the neighborhood, more crime in the neighborhood,” she said.

Still other neighbors, like Robert Madigan of 31st street, see opportunities. “It would put some more jobs out there for people around the neighborhood,” he said.

So, no consensus yet. But change is hard, said City Planning Director Tom Stosur. “It's not unlike what happened probably 10, 15 years ago in Hampden,” he said, “when that was all starting out. And things do settle down after time and you see that…it’s not as bad as anyone thinks it’s going to be.”

But maybe not as good either. The City Council approved the project in 2010, but plans changed after home improvement giant Lowe’s pulled out the next year. What was going to be a parking garage became a surface lot. Though the truck traffic will be reduced without Lowe’s, trucks will now have only one spot to both enter and exit. Some landscaping was added, as well as a pedestrian-only entrance. The developer has yet to announce what businesses will go into the other planned commercial spaces.

The Planning Commission approved the changes as “minor” this past November, but some residents of Old Goucher and Charles Village appealed to city Circuit Court. Those neighborhoods also border 25th Street Station, and the appellants want the changes deemed “major.” Such a ruling would put the entire project back before the City Council. Other residents asked the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals to weigh in.

Jon Laria, an attorney for site developer WV Urban Developments, wrote in an e-mail that Remington is “a terrific neighborhood.” But he also wrote, “No matter what we do or say, certain antagonists insist on suing and obstructing.”

Not so, said David Lynch, an attorney for the Old Goucher group. His firm, G. Macy Nelson, LLC, represents residents in land use cases. “We represent clients throughout the state of Maryland and that argument’s made in every single case,” he said. “And… it’s not true. It’s not the motivation.” Lynch said his clients are concerned about proper procedures—that the developer follows the law.

But others see need, like 27-year old Remingtonian Ryan Flanigan. “Residents are already shopping at Walmarts further away and I don’t think it’s unreasonable that they have one close to them,” he said. “There is no doubt that there's a reputation in Remington of being hostile to businesses.”

But what is reasonable? Daniel Campo teaches urban planning at Morgan State. He said that this is not a tremendous “NIMBY” (Not In My Backyard) issue - there’s no sewage treatment plant or highway bypass planned. But at the same time, it’s not going to be an aesthetically pleasing addition to Remington. “It’s not gonna be something that's gonna provide other aspects of things that you need in cities like cultural value, entertainment, that sort of thing,” he said. “It’s not gonna be that, right? It’s going to be a store.”

The Baltimore Circuit Court hearing on the Old Goucher residents’ appeal is set for June 4, according to Lynch. However, the developer and the city have filed motions to dismiss the case, and the hearing for that motion will be April 9.