Non-profit center offers free advice, hopes to help people help themselves

November 18, 1990|By Daniel B. Wroblewski

Charles "Ted" Jeffries has a dream.

It is, he concedes, an ambitious one: to rid the city of crime, to make homeowners out of thousands of inner-city renters; to increase the tax base; to rejuvenate neighborhoods where even the poor will be proud to live; to create jobs; to make Baltimore a model city for the nation.

The key, Mr. Jeffries says, is owning property.

"Look at 'Gone With the Wind.' The woman [Scarlett O'Hara], after all that had happened to her, what was important? Slaves?. . . No, the land," says Mr. Jeffries, who earned a bachelor's degree in 1989 from the Wharton School of Business.

Mr. Jeffries, 25, has started the Real Estate Center, a non-profit agency that offers free advice on low-interest loans, renovating apartment buildings, buying property and a host of other real estate matters.

The center, which Mr. Jeffries plans to situate in East Baltimore, isopen to everyone. It is now run out of Mr. Jeffries' Park Avenue apartment.

But Mr. Jeffries says the center will be different from other non-profit, government and neighborhood housing groups. He says it will be more "aggressive," canvassing poor areas and teaching people, one-on-one, how to buy property, fill out forms and approach banks for loans.

"The goal of the center is to create community," says Mr. Jeffries. "These people have to have a stake in society, and the way to have a stake in society is to own something."

The center, which Mr. Jeffries plans to situate in East Baltimore, isopen to everyone. It is now run out of Mr. Jeffries' Park Avenue apartment.

Mr. Jeffries' father is a commercial developer, his mother a high school teacher. He grew up in Elgin, Ill., a wealthy suburb of Chicago and has worked for a property management firm, Warner Bros. commercial real estate division and Great Western Financial in Philadelphia. He moved to Baltimore six months ago.

Mr. Jeffries says he has the knowledge, the know-how and the connections that most people in the city don't have but need. And those connections, he believes, will help him establish a six-member executive board of professors, bankers and others to serve as advisers.

The center has asked William Zucker, a professor emeritus at Wharton, and Michael Guy, a counselor at the city's Homeownership Institute, a unit of the Department of Housing and Community Development, to serve on the board.

"I would love to see what he does get off the ground. It's a good service," says Mr. Guy. "There are so many families out here who can buy but don't have the basic information."

The center will have a budget of $500,000 a year, and Mr. Jeffries hopes to raise $3 million, mostly from banks, to get the center going for at least three years. He says most sources of information on real estate -- brokers, banks and lawyers, for example -- have vested interests, unlike his center, which is intended to give people the means to help themselves.

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