Sandtown promised $8 million

March 05, 1994|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Ian Johnson contributed to this article.

Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester, the Schmoke administration model renewal project, will get up to $8 million in loans from NationsBank to help buy and renovate the 670 vacant houses that blight the neighborhood.

"This is the private-sector infusion that we need," said Daniel P. Henson III, the Baltimore housing commissioner.

He said the funds will let the city move faster than if it had to rely on government programs, which are bound up in red tape.

"It's just a cumbersome process when you're using government funds to acquire anything," he said. "This will let us react to the marketplace."

The announcement of the NationsBank loans carries some symbolism for City Hall, which has made Sandtown-Winchester the centerpiece of its efforts to rebuild impoverished neighborhoods.

A year ago tomorrow, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke went to Sandtown and promised that every boarded-up house in the neighborhood would be renovated within one year.

But a year later, only about 110 of the 670 vacant houses in the area have been acquired by the city and only 40 of those have been renovated, Mr. Henson said.

The announcement of the NationsBank agreement will allow Mr. Schmoke to claim some progress when he returns to Sandtown-Winchester for a walk through the neighborhood today.

"He made a commitment to the community and he intends to stick by it," said Clinton R. Coleman, Mr. Schmoke's press secretary. "At least we're going to be able to show the community that this will be done, and he's going to honor his commitment to take care of these vacants."

City Hall's announcement of the loan agreement apparently took NationsBank by surprise. Officials there said that although they are committed to helping Sandtown, the deal is still in negotiation.

Daniel Finney, bank spokesman, said that talks continue, but that the arrangement is not settled.

He added: "Any inconsistencies should in no way imply that NationsBank is in any way planning to either diminish its commitment to Sandtown or in fact even maintain a static level of commitment. We expect to be expanding it dramatically as time goes by and as the details become more solid."

According to Mr. Henson, the NationsBank deal includes:

* A $2 million line of credit for the purchase of the vacant houses scattered around the 72-square-block West Baltimore community. Buying the houses is "the toughest part of this whole project," Mr. Henson said.

* A $6 million revolving loan fund to provide financing for developers who renovate the vacant homes for rent or for low-income owners.

In addition to funds for vacant houses, NationsBank is providing a $3.2 million loan for the developer of the defunct N. W. Carroll nursing home on North Gilmor Street.

Of the 670 vacant houses, about 150 will be renovated as rental properties, at a cost of about $65,000 per unit, Mr. Henson said.

Another 380 will be renovated for sale to families who will pay less than $350 a month for the mortgage principal, interest and insurance, Mr. Henson said.

Almost 140 of the 670 properties are alley properties too small to accommodate families. They will be demolished, Mr. Henson said.

A new coordinating agency, the Neighborhood Development Center, is being organized to oversee the purchase and renovation of the vacant homes, Mr. Henson said. The budget for the house renewal project is about $60 million -- including the $8 million from Nationsbank and $1.7 million in loans from area churches.

The remainder comes from the city, state and federal governments, Mr. Henson said.

NationsBank, the Charlotte, N.C., banking giant, took over Maryland National Bank last October.

Yesterday, Mr. Schmoke announced that NationsBank was donating $3 million toward a new children's museum downtown.

Maryland National was a key player in the Sandtown-Winchester community, committing $6.2 million to the area's Nehemiah project, which involved the construction and renovation of 300 townhouses.

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