The “Looming Tower” in Lake Roland

While concerns have been raised that the Bluestem development will consist of a large block tower looming over Lake Roland Park, the Bluestem development team have gone to great lengths to ensure that the final construction will be nothing of the sort. The Bluestem plan has, with the help of community stakeholders, evolved into a village-style space that has found viable solutions to solve local issues.

The Bluestem Development Team’s Commitment to Implementing Community Feedback

From the inception of the project, the Bluestem development team has worked closely with a variety of community stakeholders, including the leadership of the Ruxton/Riderwood/Lake Roland Area Improvement Association (RRLRAIA) and the Lake Roland Nature Council, to ensure that community feedback was foremost when creating the design plans for Bluestem. The final development plans also help to further the goals of the RRLRAIA’s Community Plan and the Baltimore County Master Plan for 2020.

The Evolution of Bluestem’s Design: Phase One to Phase Four

Throughout the course of the four years that Bluestem has been in the works, the development plans have changed a total of four times. This has been due to Vanguard’s desire to create a space that exists in harmony with the community’s desires and the area’s pre-existing amenities, including Lake Roland park.

Phase One, which was developed on February 1st, 2016, was originally named “Village of Lake Roland” and consisted of a traditional flattened layout with a residential building in the rear, commercial retail towards the front of the property and a central parking field. Phase Two, developed in August 2016, deviated slightly from the original design, maintaining one of the property’s original structures and introducing a drive-thru user as an end-cap.

Phase Three, developed in February 2017, took a far more innovative approach to the design with the assistance of Alexander Design Studio, who maintained the existing topography of the property and included two drive-thru pad buildings with the original main building still developed to the south end of the project. This plan was submitted as a part of the Planned Unit Development (PUD) application for Baltimore County. A PUD is a mixed-use development that must achieve substantially higher-quality development than a conventional development or provide a public benefit that would otherwise not be obtained.

The final phase, Phase Four, was developed on May 22, 2017 and took into consideration feedback from the PUD Community Input Meeting as well as other community stakeholders. All development was removed from the forest buffer zone and the residential and commercial aspects of the project were combined to create an integrated mixed-use project. The project was renamed “Bluestem” to demonstrate the team’s commitment to developing an environmentally-friendly project in harmony with the park. The layout of the development was also shifted to create a walkable plan with a focal “main street.”  

Misguided Fears: “Looming Tower” Above Lake Roland

In one of the original phases of the development plan, the residential building within the development was designed to be built to eight stories. After listening to community concerns, the Bluestem development team chose to reduce the residential building to five stories, and there are no other buildings slated to be constructed on the property that would exceed this story level. Each of the other buildings on the property are to be constructed to one, two or three stories, respectively. In a further effort to maintain as much green space on the property as possible—in accordance with the wishes of the community—the development team has chosen to develop this parcel of land to a density that is only 20% of what zoning regulations for the property permit. Ultimately, fears of a tower looming over Lake Roland Park are misguided: the Bluestem development team has gone to great lengths to create a design that is sensitive to the needs of the community and to the natural spaces surrounding the property. In fact, the tallest building on the Bluestem site will only be 15 feet taller than the building directly adjacent to the site.

How Else Has Bluestem Committed to a Community-Focused Design?

The Bluestem development team consists of locally-run and operated firms that have a deep understanding of what the communities surrounding Bluestem require—not only because they live and work in these communities, but because they have spent their careers working on projects within these spaces. Bluestem’s commitment to a community-focused development goes far beyond the scope of what is detailed here. To learn more about how Bluestem is responding to the needs of the Bare Hills Community, click here.