Hospital company to fix up neighborhood housing

August 03, 1994|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,Sun Staff Writer

Vacant and rundown rowhouses in the neighborhood around Bon Secours Hospital will be renovated and transformed into affordable rental housing under a plan unveiled yesterday by the hospital's parent company.

Four vacant rowhouses on the 1800 block of W. Baltimore St. will be the first targets of Operation ReachOut, a revitalization project organized by Bon Secours Baltimore Health Corp.

But the company's vision for improving the neighborhood extends well beyond those houses. The company has acquired about 22 rowhouses in the blocks around the hospital and is looking to purchase more, company officials said.

Organizers hope the project will bring jobs, businesses and playgrounds to the neighborhood. The renovated buildings, they hope, also will attract stable residents and encourage neighbors to fix up their properties.

"We live and work here, so it's important to have the neighborhood become a secure, stable, and productive place," said Jane R. Durney, CEO of Bon Secours Baltimore Health.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke added in a speech before the plans were unveiled, "If you're going to take care of health care needs, you have to take care of the entire community."

In the three targeted blocks of W. Baltimore Street -- the 1800, 1900 and 2000 blocks -- about half of the houses are boarded up. A few well-kept rowhouses dot the street, but many others are run-down. Many of the rowhouses in the area are owned by absentee landlords, said Earline Piscitelli, vice president of Bon Secours Baltimore Health.

Longtime residents of the 1800 block said their neighborhood has deteriorated in recent years.

"It was really nice," said Bernice Carter, 67, who has lived in her house at 1826 W. Baltimore St. for 32 years. "But the landlords didn't care who they rented to. They messed up the places."

She said houses started standing vacant on her block about seven years ago.

The four rowhouses targeted for the first renovations are the former home of Fayette House, a substance abuse rehabilitation program. They have been vacant for several months, Ms. Piscitelli said.

The rowhouses, brightly decorated outside yesterday with blue and white ribbons, were in shambles inside.

In one second-floor room facing the street, a syringe and empty liquor bottles littered the floor, along with padded ceiling tiles that Western District Capt. Michael J. Andrew said are slept on by drug users. Walls, windows, ceilings and carpeting in the rest of the building were broken or torn out. A dead mouse lay in the middle of a hallway.

"When you have a vacancy it attracts the undesirables," Captain Andrew said.

Bon Secours Baltimore Health bought the four rowhouses, which will be divided into apartments, for about $7,500 each, Ms. Piscitelli said. Renters could move into renovated units by next summer, she said.

Area residents look forward to the renovations.

Said Mrs. Carter, "It will be good if they screen the people they're going to put in there and make sure the kids don't tear up the places."

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