Five minutes with Cross Street’s Larry Rosenberg
When developer Larry Rosenberg started building houses in Howard County in the 1980s, homeownership was slumping, amid a depressing stew of rising land values, high interest rates and economic recession.
To bring down costs, Rosenberg designed a house that was narrow and deep, and didn’t need as big a lot. He sold his first five homes within a day.
The conditions Rosenberg faces now, as a project executive in Cross Street Partners’ construction division in Baltimore, are nearly the opposite. Interest rates are low, land in Baltimore City is relatively cheap and the economy is growing, albeit slowly. But amid declines in homeownership, he said he’s looking for similar solutions.
“The concept of affordability is still what’s the driving force,” he said. “It’s taking that same creative thinking of saying, ‘OK. How can I reduce the cost of producing this house?'”
Born in Baltimore, Rosenberg is a fourth-generation home builder. He started his career in Boston, before returning to Maryland in 1983 to found The Mark Building Co. and work in Howard County.
As Columbia got built up, he moved into infill development projects, spending the last roughly 15 years working in eastern Baltimore County in areas such as Dundalk, Essex and Middle River, including the Riverdale development.
Rosenberg said Bill Struever, a principal at Cross Street Partners, had tried to talk him into doing projects in Baltimore for years. But his interest in the city grew after he got involved with plans to create a Community Outreach Empowerment and Wellness Center in a McCulloh Street building owned by the Bethel AME Church.
“Because of my exposure to the city and what I was doing with the Empowerment Wellness Center, I was so engaged and so committed … I said, you know, I really want to do this full-time,” Rosenberg said. “Market conditions have changed and … it’s mission-driven. Both are coming together for me.”
Rosenberg, is working on the conversion of the historic A. Hoen & Co. building in East Baltimore into a roughly 80,000-square-foot complex with office space. The project, which has received historic tax credits, is working to line up tenants. Rosenberg also is working on a series of residential projects.
Rosenberg said Cross Street hopes to start doing residential work at a scale big enough to make an impact on neighborhoods, tying it to some of the other commercial work the firm is doing, as at Hoen.
“The idea is now not only will we be able to reimagine that building, we’ll be able to do the housing around it and really make an impact,” he said.
Rosenberg said he’s looking at numerous ways to keep costs down: tax credits, working with job-training programs and design. The firm plans to build new, energy-efficient homes behind the city’s rowhouse facades, avoiding the unpredictability of historic rehab. He’s also looking at designs that will combine two residences, or create a parking garage on the first floor.
People used to wait in line to buy his father’s homes, Rosenberg said. In his case, he imagines a lottery along the lines of one recently hosted by Johns Hopkins for houses offered within the East Baltimore Development Inc. footprint, including by national homebuilder Ryan Homes.
“Our houses are going to cost less,” he said.
Title: Project executive at Cross Street Partners
Previous job: President and founder of the Mark Building Co. Inc.
Residence: Baltimore County
Birthplace: Baltimore City
Education: Park School, Boston University
Family: Wife and two sons
Hobbies/interests: Traveling, live music, movies