Dilapidated apartments to be rewired, just in time

February 28, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Faced with the threat of condemnation, the owners of a dilapidated, low-income apartment complex in Annapolis have promised to begin replacing faulty electrical wiring tomorrow.

City officials warned last week that they would condemn Bay Ridge Gardens if the group of investors that owns the worn, 198-unit development did not begin correcting safety hazards within five days.

Housing inspectors uncovered 600 violations, including rusting metal stairs, faulty plumbing and appliances, electrical hazards and outdated stoves, during a two-month inspection finished in December.

Two partners in the ownership group -- Cam Construction Co. of Timonium and John A. Pica Sr., the father of state Sen. John A. Pica Jr. of Baltimore -- sent the city letters by facsimile promising to start the electrical repairs immediately.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Russell Morgan, chief of the Annapolis Bureau of Inspections and Permits. "I think we're slowly getting them to make a response."

Mr. Morgan plans to meet with two electricians at the apartment complex on Bay Ridge Avenue tomorrow morning to inspect the units.

The owners have agreed to replace the metal stairs after the electrical wiring is fixed, then the gas valves, then the doors, he said. They have outlined a plan to repair four buildings each month this spring.

Bay Ridge Gardens, a collection of low-rise brick buildings built in 1971, has been deteriorating for years. The city has repeatedly cited the project for code violations.

In August, a management company that specializes in turning around troubled low-income housing took over the development. Shelter Properties Corp., a Baltimore-based group, has made basic repairs, from sweeping the stairwells to fixing the gutters. But the city wants a complete overhaul, which could cost more than $2.25 million.

The Shelter Foundation, a nonprofit group affiliated with the management company, wants to buy the site by the end of the year.

Built under a program designed to increase the nation's stock of affordable housing, Bay Ridge Gardens was a stable, well-kept community for years. But in the past decade, maintenance slipped and the number of vacant units increased. The community has been plagued by drug dealing and sporadic shootings.

Last week was the first time the city threatened to condemn an apartment complex since it forced Boston Heights to close in 1989.

That 159-unit complex on the city's northwestern edge was known for slum-like living conditions. After a fire killed five children there, city inspectors uncovered 758 housing violations and threatened to condemn the complex.

In November 1989, the owner evicted the last families and closed the complex. A nonprofit corporation has refurbished it with $9.7 million and renamed it Admiral Oaks.

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