3 historic buildings stir worry Renaissance Plaza may have a buyer, but for what use?

July 06, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

A potential new buyer has emerged for Renaissance Plaza, the three-building apartment complex in the North Baltimore community of Reservoir Hill that state officials have been trying to sell since last year.

Roizman and Companies, a Pennsylvania-based real estate group founded by Israel Roizman, heads a team that is negotiating to purchase the 311-unit complex overlooking Druid Lake.

Area residents have said they are concerned that the next owner will seek to convert most of the apartments to subsidized housing for low-income residents, rather than aiming for a tenant mix that reflects the diversity of the neighborhood.

Roizman, along with a partner, the Related Cos. of New York, was one of 11 groups that expressed interest in buying the apartments last year when a state-appointed receiver sought proposals.

Financial Conservators, the receiver, originally recommended that the buildings be sold to a group headed by Landex Corp. of Warwick, R.I.

Landex proposed to spend $28.6 million to buy and renovate the apartments for low- and moderate-income residents. But it was unable to obtain financing within a 75-day deadline set in January by Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan, and the sale fell through.

G. Richard Gray, president of Financial Conservators, said his office began working with Mr. Roizman after Landex's negotiating period expired. He said Financial Conservators is drafting a sale contract that would give Roizman and Related until March 1994 to inspect the buildings, secure financing and finish their construction plans.

The state took control of Renaissance Plaza -- which consists of the Emersonian at 2502 Eutaw Place, the Esplanade at 2525 Eutaw Place and Temple Gardens at 2601 Madison Ave. -- after a Rockville-based developer defaulted on a $7 million state loan in 1991.

Mr. Roizman could not be reached. But documents on file with the receiver show that Roizman and Related own or manage thousands of rent-subsidized apartments around the nation.

Mr. Gray said he did not have details of Mr. Roizman's plan but that his intention is to upgrade the apartments for continued use as rental housing. He said the source of money for the rehabilitation most likely would be a combination of federal, state and local housing funds.

The sale is important to the community because the complex is a highly visible anchor to the Reservoir Hill area.

Constructed between 1912 and 1926, the three buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. About half of the apartments have been set aside as subsidized housing, but the others have been rented without subsidies.

Neighborhood leaders have said they are concerned that more of the apartments will be converted to low-income housing because most governmental financing for "rental rehab" work is available only for projects that assist residents who make less than 80 percent of the median income for the area.

They also note that Mr. Roizman and Related have specialized in rent-subsidized housing in the past.

Area's stability cited

The neighbors say they fear that any plan to convert most or all of Renaissance Plaza to low-income housing could harm the stability of the area, where dozens of town houses have been restored by owner-occupants over the past 15 years.

They say they would prefer a development that attracts a diverse mix of residents, including for-sale units as well as apartments.

They also want the apartments to be rehabilitated in a way that preserves their historic details.

To build only low-income housing is "a formula for disaster," resident Mike Phillips warned at a community meeting this year.

"We've been working to change this neighborhood one building at a time. . . . 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."

Meeting planned tonight

Kris Schlack, past president of the Upper Eutaw-Madison Improvement Association, said her group has had one meeting about the Roizman project and that community leaders are scheduled to meet with a Roizman representative tonight.

In January, the Roizman and Related team offered to pay the state $8.5 million for the buildings -- $3 million at the time of sale and another $5.5 million plus interest when construction is completed.

That figure was $1.5 million higher than Landex's bid, but Landex promised full payment at the time of sale.

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