Renovator is suggested for Reservoir Hill units

January 19, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

A Rhode Island-based developer would spend $28.6 million t buy and renovate three historic apartment buildings in Baltimore's Reservoir Hill neighborhood for low- and moderate-income housing, under a plan recommended by a state-appointed receiver.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan will hold a hearing at 11:30 a.m. Monday to consider the recommendation.

The receiver, Financial Conservators Inc. of Baltimore, sought proposals last year for the 311-unit Renaissance Plaza complex. FCI received 11 bids and narrowed the field to three finalists.

Landex Corp. of Warwick, R.I., leads a development team whose bid was judged to be the strongest, said FCI President Richard Gray. Landex's group also has the support of representatives from the state and city housing departments, and many of the buildings' current tenants.

Leaders of the Reservoir Hill neighborhood say they fear the plan could harm the stability of their area, since it calls for low-income rental housing rather than opportunities for homeownership.

The Upper Eutaw-Madison Neighborhood Association will hold a community meeting to discuss the project at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at 2526 Madison Ave.

But state officials promise that community residents will have plenty of chances to meet with the developers and air their concerns before the project moves ahead.

"It's not a done deal," said Patricia Payne, deputy secretary of the state's Department of Housing and Community Development. "Negotiations are still going on. I am positive that this developer will want to work very closely with the neighborhood."

The buildings to be renovated, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are: the Emersonian, a 62-unit building constructed in 1915 at 2502 Eutaw Place; the Esplanade, a 95-unit building constructed in 1912, at 2525 Eutaw Place; and Temple Gardens, a 154-unit building constructed in 1926 at 2601 Madison Ave.

The buildings have been under state control since 1991, when a Rockville-based group called Renaissance Plaza Limited Partnership defaulted on a $7 million state loan. About 130 of the 311 units are occupied.

According to court documents, Landex is working with Community Preservation and Development Corp. of Glen Burnie and a financial partner called the Richmond Group. Together, they own or manage thousands of rent-subsidized apartments around the country, including hundreds in the Baltimore area.

Landex representatives could not be reached. Mr. Gray said the team hopes to take ownership by June 30 and would renovate the buildings to create about 300 apartments.

He is asking Judge Kaplan to approve a sale contract that would give the group 75 days to line up financing and finish planning the conversion.

At a community meeting Sunday, Reservoir Hill residents said they would prefer a development that provides a housing mix that includes for-sale units as well as apartments. They also voiced concern that the developers will not adequately preserve the buildings' historic details.

"Everybody knows that high-rise buildings don't work for low-income housing," said Eutaw Place resident David Kean. "We feel the best way to stabilize a neighborhood and increase the tax base is homeownership.

"It's a formula for disaster," warned resident Mike Phillips. "We've been working to change this neighborhood one building at a time. Now the state could come in with these 300 units and, in one fell swoop, change the whole pattern of the neighborhood. Ten years of effort could be erased."

Ms. Payne said none of the feasible proposals called for home ownership. She said the developers intend to market the apartments to residents making 60 percent to 80 percent of the median income for the metropolitan area, and added that she believes the development "can be an enhancement to the neighborhood" because it will result in "a complete restoration of the buildings."

For a two-person household in the Baltimore area, 60 percent to TTC 80 percent of the median income ranges from $21,500 to $28,200. For a four-person household, 60 percent to 80 percent of the median income is $26,450 to $35,000. "This is an income range that is middle class," Ms. Payne said. "It's not public housing."

Mr. Gray added that all plans will have to be reviewed by the Maryland Historical Trust and other agencies, since the buildings are landmarks.

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