In July 1988, Harold Pringle and his neighbors in the old Hampton Apartments in Towson were afraid they would be forced out to allow a developer to knock down the comfortable old buildings and build high-priced condominiums or apartment towers.
A proposed rezoning to allow just that scenario brought the residents of the 150-unit complex before committees of the Baltimore County planning board in opposition.
As a result, the board members helped broker a deal under which developer Jack H. Pechter got the rezoning for high-rises he wanted, and guaranteed in exchange to reserve at least 100 apartments for the elderly at lower rents.
Now, work is scheduled to begin in January on Timothy House, a 112-unit development for the elderly on part of the Hampton site, but private plans for the new high-priced units on the rest of the 11-acre site are fuzzy.
Pringle, now 75 and on an oxygen tank because of black lung disease he contracted while a coal miner, isn't afraid of being forced anywhere any more.
In fact, the fear of being displaced from his two-bedroom, ground-floor apartment has so faded that Pringle is planning to stay where he is and not move into one of the Timothy House units when they're done.
Pechter's development plans seemingly have sunk with the economy, and Pringle says he has been told his building, which is not included in the Timothy House complex site, will not be converted or torn down any time soon.
He and the other elderly residents of the Hampton like the convenience of living within walking distance of a supermarket and the giant Towsontown Centre Mall at Dulaney Valley Road and Fairmount Avenue. They also have easy access to central Towson's senior center, library and government offices.
Pechter gave 2.5 acres on the north side of Dunvale Avenue, east of York Road, to Timothy House, the private, church-sponsored non-profit corporation that has been operating the site's five apartment buildings since March 1989. Timothy House is the creation of members of the First Lutheran Church of Towson.
The two three-story buildings at either end of that row are empty, awaiting a wrecker's ball, while the non-profit group manages the remaining 28 units and waits for the new buildings to rise.
After several delays, Timothy House has brought in Shelter Development Corp., developer of two other projects for the elderly in Baltimore County, to get the work done on the $6.5 million project.
Timothy House Director Melvin Knott and Andrew J. Aulde, vice president of Shelter Development, say work demolishing the two empty buildings should begin in late January. Aulde says the new buildings, which will feature special social and eating rooms for the elderly, should take no more than a year to build.
The plans call for two new six-story buildings containing 84 apartments to replace the two vacant three-story buildings and renovation of the remaining 28 apartments in the center buildings, where all the two-bedroom units will be.
All but six units in the new buildings will be one-bedroom. The units will be efficiencies. Five apartments will be designed specifically for handicapped people, and the first building will contain a large multi-purpose room, a laundry room, craft room, office mail room and lobby, as well as a common dining room for those participating in the county-sponsored eating together program.
Fifteen apartments will be designated "Sheltered Housing" under a state program that helps elderly people with special nutritional needs, housekeeping and other personal help for those who can't do for themselves.
The state has contributed $500,000 to renovate the remaining older buildings. Knott says those buildings will get new heating systems, central air conditioning, roofs, downspouts, security entrance doors, new windows, appliances, and carpeting. He said he has 125 applications for the 112 units.
First preference for renters goes to those older than 62 who already live in the complex. That group numbered about 65 in 1988, when the zoning deal was struck, but has dropped to 47.
The rents are not subsidized, but will be lower than market rents because of state and county help, and federal tax credits used to attract investors. Rent for a one-bedroom unit in one of the new midrises will be $380 plus utilities, Knott says, while two-bedroom unit rents are still uncertain. However, they will be lower than the $450 renters now pay for two-bedroom units including heat, Knott says.
Pringle says he really needs the ground level two-bedroom he has now, because of his own disabilities and those of his wife.
"I don't want to move unless I have to," he says. "I think it [the zoning trade] was a good deal, but when are they going to start?"
He jokingly says that promises of the project beginning "next month" have been heard before.