High-rise dilemma: Fix up? Tear down? Lexington Terrace options weighed

April 16, 1993|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

The Housing Authority of Baltimore City is considering five options for a blighted Lexington Terrace apartment building ranging from $8.2 million in renovations to total demolition of the high rise located at 734 W. Fayette St.

The options are part of a 12-page report presented this week to U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry G. Cisneros by a task force composed of public housing residents and officials from the city Housing Authority and HUD.

The task force's report ruled out three options: converting the building for elderly housing, restricting it to single adult occupancy and limiting the number of small children who can live there.

The report said it was "impractical" and "possibly a violation of Fair Housing Regulations" to limit the number of children in the building. Restricting the building to housing for the elderly or single adults was rejected because of the overwhelming need for family units -- there are approximately 15,000 families on the Housing Authority's waiting list.

City Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III is expected to decide the fate of the building by May 20. Mr. Henson, who sits on the 28-member task force, declined to comment on the report during an interview earlier this week. He said he would choose an option and forward it to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke later this month. The mayor will submit the recommendation to HUD.

The 11-story building was closed on March 18, and its tenants were relocated to other public housing units. Mr. Schmoke ordered the building closed after tenants complained about the high-rise's many vacant units, vandalism, crime and lax maintenance.

Mr. Cisneros ordered the formation of the task force after he made an unscheduled tour of the building while on a visit to Baltimore Feb. 3. The panel met for six weeks and came up with options for the building.

The report outlines the following options:

* Total renovation, which would cost an estimated $8.2 million and take up to 32 months to complete.

* Partial renovation, which would cost an estimated $5.7 million and take up to 30 months to complete.

* Demolition, an option that's opposed by some members of a Lexington Terrace tenants' group.

* Converting the first three floors to walk-up apartments and turning most two-bedroom units into three-bedroom apartments.

* Converting the building to public/private use by turning some units into private apartments.

Lorraine Ledbetter, a task force member who heads the Lexington-Poe tenant council, said the tenant council opposes demolishing the building or partially renovating it.

"We want the place renovated and the people up here have agreed to sign a petition to Mr. Henson stating that," said Ms. Ledbetter.

Barbara Samuels, a task force member, said she was disappointed that the task force was not asked to vote on a final recommendation for the building.

"We thought that the mission and charge of the task force was to make decisions," Ms. Samuels said. "We thought the action plan would reflect some decisions, too. It does not. You can see from reading it. It defines a wide range of options and eliminates a few."

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