"I think it's absolutely fantastic," said Kaliope Parthemos, the city's deputy chief of economic and neighborhood development, of the development plans. "It provides the transit-oriented-development that site needs."
High-density, mixed-use development close to mass transit has become a new model for planners in Baltimore and elsewhere seeking to spur redevelopment while easing suburban sprawl and traffic.
In the Baltimore area, which has largely unconnected systems of commuter bus and rail service, such projects have been slow to take hold. For example, Metro Centre in Owings Mills, where apartments, offices and shops are being built near a Metro station, is still a work in progress.
City and community leaders see the Penn Station project as crucial to the developing Station North district.
"This truly is a gateway," said Don Donahue, president of the Charles North Community Association. "This is the first image many people have when they first come into Baltimore. We have to pay attention to it."
Ricketts said it's possible housing could be developed first -- as early as in the next several years -- on the parking lot known as the Lanvale site north of the station.
"We have a lot of empty parking lots in Charles North," Donahue said. "We need to increase the density of people living in Charles North to sustain a viable, lively entertainment district and commercial district on Charles Street and North Avenue."
The Rev. Dale Dusman, pastor of St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church, several blocks north of Penn Station, said the community has been waiting for development on the Lanvale site for years.
"We've been waiting and waiting and waiting for something exciting to happen," Dusman said. "There have been so many proposals over the years. A lot of great things have happened on Charles Street, and more is happening on North Avenue. That lot is so crucial to say, 'This is a special place.'"
Beatty Development has already begun showing off its proposal to city officials and business and community groups, including the Greater Baltimore Committee.
"That was exciting to see a vision developing for an area that has been underserved and underutilized for many years," said Donald Fry, GBC president. "This is very much conceptual in nature, but it's something we're very interested in."