Admiral Oaks a welcome plot twist in sordid storyIt may...

ROUTE 2 -- A weekly journey through Anne Arundel County

July 15, 1992|By Chris Guy Housing renovation: 'Popeye to Madonna'

Admiral Oaks a welcome plot twist in sordid story

It may not be the classic happy endiing, but a new chapter in a sorry story in Annapolis has begun. And it starts with the end of Boston Heights.

The dilapidated and dangerous 159-unit slum has been transformed into Admiral Oaks, a community that blessedly bears little resemblance to the hellhole former Mayor Dennis Callahan likened to a war zone.

When National Geographic magazine dubbed Annapolis "Camelot on the Bay," Boston Heights was the Beirut on the other side of town, out of sight of the tourists, legislators and the well-to-do who frequent City Dock and the historic district.

Built with federal money to provide affordable housing nearly 25 years ago, the complex was quickly sold off to a city investor for $406,000. Two years later, it was sold again, to of all things, a trash hauling company.

By 1983, the place was snapped up by a landlord who was already notorious in Prince George's County for buying low-income apartment communities and running them down even more. A year later, fed-up tenants staged a rent strike, demanding repairs to failing sewage and heating systems.

With the community crumbling, drug dealers had virtually taken over by the late 1980s. Apartments that were deemed unfit for habitation by the city were simply boarded over and became drug "shooting galleries."

Dr. Sateesh K. Singh, an "investor" from Savage who for years successfully fought off attempts by the city to force repairs, finally sold out for $2 million to the Community Preservation and Development Corp., a non-profit group from Bethesda.

Following extensive renovations, the first families began moving in last January, and a ceremony last Friday marked the reopening in style. With apartments renting from $220 to $480, the community has come full circle -- providing decent affordable homes to families who need them.

With a non-profit corporation in place as landlord, maybe this time the private investors won't be allowed to suck the life out of the Admiral Oaks.

Boston Heights is gone. Good riddance.

Maybe it was the heat.

It was just past 9 a.m., but the dozen or so officials who gathered for the grand opening of Admiral Oaks were already wilting. The men in dark suits looked distinctly uncomfortable Friday morning as they waited to say a few words about the transformation of Annapolis' worst slum into a pristine neighborhood.

County Executive Robert R. Neall appropriately called it a "miracle." Congressman Tom McMillen, D-4th District, hailed the joint efforts of the city, state and federal government to restore the once-dilapidated housing complex as "an affirmation that government can work."

Then Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins got his chance at the mike.

He talked about the late 1980s, when the 159-unit complex, called Boston Heights, was run down, beset by drug dealing, sporadic violence and squalor. The community, he said, had gone "from Popeye to Madonna."

Come again? A lot of people looked surprised. "You think he means the pop star?" one person whispered.

Popeye, the old spinach-eating sailor, always seemed to me to be kind of a wholesome figure. Not the sort you would associate with a drug-infested slum.

Whereas the Material Girl has appeared in some outfits that would, well, stand out in Admiral Oaks. The women attending the ceremony Friday were in flowered dresses or skirts and blouses. Nobody appeared in a black lace bra or leather miniskirt.

The mayor followed up his remarks with a clarifying statement. Mr. Hopkins said he likes to joke that he has a love affair with the city. With the reopening of Admiral Oaks, he said, he has a mistress.

Uh-huh.

JoAnna Daemmrich

Aviation company sees bright horizon

The airline industry lost more money than ever in 1991, then beat itself up with the more recent fare wars, but better days are ahead.

So say the people at UNC Inc., an Annapolis-based aviation company. And in the June 15 issue of Barron's, they were glad to see a well-respected stock picker not only back that assertion, but list UNC stock as a favorite.

Andrew Knuth, of Westport Asset Management, said his money-management company doesn't think like investors who are down on airlines because of fare cuts and the resulting shrinking revenues.

"We think the next decade is going to be a huge expansion period, particularly internationally, for the airline industry," he told Barron's in a question-and-answer article. "We think there are a lot of people in China, for example, who have never been on an airplane, and probably in the next 10 years they may want to fly somewhere."

This is good for UNC, which offers products and services for the aircraft and airline industry, manufacturing original equipment and remanufacturing jet engine components.

This is so good, in fact, that the company's stock should appreciate by at least 50 percent over the next two years, the article said.

That meant a lot coming from Mr. Knuth, and it meant a lot in the stock market the day the Barron's issue came out, said David L. Dragics, UNC's director of investor relations.

"Our stock rose three-eighths that day," while five times the normal daily amount of shares were traded, Mr. Dragics said. For several days that week, other aviation-related stocks dropped while UNC's remained stable.

"Someone like Andy Knuth has a very good reputation," Mr. Dragics said. "He's noted for doing his homework. He's a good long-term investor."

Though the counter-market trend proved to be only temporary, Mr. Dragics believes the company's future is bright.

"We feel the aviation industry in the long haul is solid," he said. "The industry is not going away."

Lorraine Mirabella

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