City chooses Murphy to convert building

SCHOOL'S OUT, APARTMENTS IN

March 12, 1991|By Edward Gunts

Developer Bettyjean Carter Murphy has been selected over seven other bidders to convert the former Barrister Charles Carroll School No. 34 to affordable housing for the Washington Village neighborhood.

Barrister Court Apartments is the name of the $1.9 million, 32-unit project that Ms. Murphy plans to open by mid-1992 if she receives the state funds she needs.

The selection marks the first time that Baltimore's housing department has selected a private company headed by a black woman to redevelop a city-owned parcel for multi- family housing.

It comes less than a year after the federal government chose a group headed by Otis Warren to build an 11-story federal office building at Baltimore and Howard streets, a decision that made Mr. Warren's group the first minority-led team ever to get a chance to construct a large office building downtown.

Ms. Murphy has been a co-developer of two other city school conversions: the 50-unit Coleman Manor at 2201 Walbrook Ave. and the 44-unit Alcott Place at 2702 Keyworth Avenue.

Barrister Court is the first project that Ms. Murphy's company, Savannah Development Corp., is launching without a co-developer. Other members of her development team are James W. Miller Inc., a general contractor, and Cho, Wilks and Benn, an architectural firm.

According to her proposal, Ms. Murphy plans to work with the city to apply for state funds to convert the school to apartments for low- and moderate-income residents who meet certain eligibility requirements. For example, to qualify for the program, individuals may earn no more than $14,500 a year and a family of four may earn no more than $20,750.

The state's Partnership Rental Housing program provides up to $65,000 per unit for such conversions, and Ms. Murphy's group is seeking $60,874 per unit.

Other bidders who responded to the city's request for proposals were the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center; Housing Assistance Corp.; Multi-Build Developers Inc.; Worthington Properties; a joint venture of Community Preservation and Development Inc. and developer Lee Rayburn; a joint venture of Bensky Construction Inc. and developer Harry Prushansky; and a joint venture of Metropolitan Contracting Co. and developer Leslie Rock.

Ms. Murphy said yesterday that she was proud to have been selected

over such competition and believes the project will have a strong impact on the neighborhood.

She also said the selection sends an important economic developmentmessage to the black community.

"It shows that blacks, by dint of their own effort, can begin to build a business," she said. "There aren't that many black women playing in this pond. I think it's important that we can participate in anything we want to do."

At least one other bidder offered to recycle the school for $5,000 per unit less than Ms. Murphy did. But her proposal was selected for a variety of factors, including her past performance at recycling schools and the merits of the proposed design, according to David Elam, the housing department's director of development.

"We're not saying it's the lowest [price], but it's competitive, and she proposed some nice amenities, such as substantial landscaping to soften the streetscape," he said.

Built starting in 1896, the school is located at the northwest corner of Washington Boulevard and Carey Street, and the city sought bids for it last fall.

Ms. Murphy said in her proposal that if her team obtains the state funds it is seeking, it will begin construction in early 1992 and complete work by September of that year. Once the building is fully leased, it will be turned over to the city housing authority.

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