Bettyjean Murphy goes to work every day with one mission in mind: to turn old things new.
As president of the Carter Development Corp., Ms. Murphy's
latest transformation project is the old Louisa May Alcott School on Keyworth Avenue in Lower Park Heights. Come mid-December, the 80-year-old building will be the new home of senior citizens and disabled residents, who will pay about $100 a month to live there.
The $4 million renovation project was born three years ago when the city put the property up for development.
Ms. Murphy spearheaded the project, pulling in the firm of Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse as a lead partner. She also garnered support from the Maryland Historic Trust, the Baltimore Real Estate Development Council, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and others to supply pieces to the intricate development puzzle.
"It takes so much cooperation between people and agencies to make a deal like this work," she said. "If one player falls out, you're done."
When the project is completed Dec. 14, it will be designated a national historic site, Ms. Murphy said. Recycling old buildings to
beautify and serve their neighborhoods is the linchpin of Ms. Murphy's development strategy.
"Baltimore used to be the capital of preservation," she said, but ,, the projects were "just directed to the middle-class market or the commercial market." Ms. Murphy says her projects not only give back to the surrounding community by making discarded structures useful again, but they also prove that "historic restoration is for all people -- poor people, too."
Ms. Murphy, who was born in New York and graduated with an undergraduate degree in international affairs from Hunter College in New York, got into real estate to support her four children after her divorce.
Taking a lead role is her way of giving back to the community, says Ms. Murphy, who has lived in Baltimore 26 years.
She always incorporates community views of how the property should look -- and whom it should serve. "I think it's important that people realize they have this kind of power" to transform their neighborhood, she said.
Her first project, Coleman Manor on Walbrook Avenue, is a case. "The community really wanted to change that building, that had been an eyesore for years," she said of the old school that opened to senior citizens two years ago.
She added, "I think low-income housing deserves skill and competence. It's not just something that you should do because the commercial market is down."