Project designed like founder's old hometown Low-cost housing planned at vacant Annapolis site

November 06, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

On some of the last vacant land in Annapolis, Dallas Evans envisions a new community much like the old neighborhood where he grew up in Eastport.

He'll call it Oxford Mews, an old-fashioned place with tree-lined streets and homes for low- and moderate-income families down Bywater Road from Forest Drive.

Second National Bank foreclosed last November on the 18-acre tract.

Mr. Evans' dream took shape one chilly afternoon three months later as he stared at the muddy fields from Greenbriar, a development of low-cost town houses across the street that he had helped to build as head of the Community Action Agency.

He thought of his childhood, he said.

"I grew up here. I know what it was like to walk through Eastport," he recalled. "Communities are not built like Eastport anymore. But that was the real hometown, a place where you knew your next-door neighbor."

With Robert Gaines, an Annapolis developer active in affordable- housing projects, Mr. Evans formed the Foundation for the Preservation of Affordable Housing to make that dream come true.

Already, they have negotiated an agreement to buy the property from the bank for $1.9 million and are lining up loans. Their preliminary plans call for building 130 town houses, 48 garden-style condominiums and 16 single homes on the property.

Annapolis lawmakers have given the proposal a warm reception, saying the city needs more inexpensive homes for first-time buyers. A City Council subcommittee recently approved $100,000 in federal grants to the foundation to help with the purchase.

"It's a unique plan," said Larry Tom, head of community development, "We're looking at a traditional type of urban plan with residential blocks and a lot of open space. It combines some of the best features of suburban design in a very urban setting."

The development does not require a zoning change, but it must be approved by city planners and the council. A hearing before the city's Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled Nov. 19.

Mr. Evans said the core of the development is the public park and a community center, which will be shared with residents of Greenbriar and Bywater Mutual Homes, a low-cost housing cooperative off Forest Drive.

A network of streets, lined with condominiums, homes and small gardens, spreads out from the park, which will be developed first. With assistance from the city, state and Second National, the foundation will be able to sell the homes for $60,000 to $130,000, well below current market prices.

First-time buyers and low-income families also will qualify for special, reduced-interest mortgages, keeping the price extremely affordable.

Mr. Tom said the success of Greenbriar convinced him that many families are searching for low-cost housing in Annapolis.

Housing prices in Maryland's capital soared during the 1980s, although the recession has flattened the market somewhat in the last two years.

The plan fits in with Maryland's new growth-control legislation and recent trends in development, Mr. Evans said.

Several national magazines have devoted articles this year to the concept of small towns with closely clustered streets and a central core of parks and shops.

"I think we're developing a community that will take on an identity that people who grew up in Annapolis can relate to," Mr. Evans said.

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