Panel's vote boosts housing proposal

November 16, 1994|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,Sun Staff Writer

Associated Catholic Charities of Baltimore yesterday took one of the final steps toward building a 106-unit housing complex for low-income residents, despite fears it would bring more problems to the ailing Lexington Market business area.

For five years, Catholic Charities has been trying to build the 45,000-square-foot complex, which would extend from an old city firehouse across a vacant lot to what is now the shell of a warehouse in the 100 block of N. Paca St.

The project, called Paca House, would provide efficiency apartments for 30 elderly residents, and 76 single-room-occupancy units for other tenants who pledge to stay drug and alcohol-free.

The city Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals removed one of the last hurdles to the project yesterday when it voted unanimously to approve Catholic Charities' request to lower the number of required parking spaces from 14 to eight, board member Gia A. Blattermann said.

The board took its action despite objections from the Market Center Association, which represents 400 merchants.

In a letter from president Milt Rosenbaum, the association told city officials there are too many social service providers already clustered in the market area, which has suffered from encroaching crime and the defection of several large department stores.

Lou Boulmetis, who owns a hat shop in the neighborhood, recalled walking through the scene where a homeless man attacked an acquaintance with a hatchet near the corner of Fayette and Eutaw streets July 6.

"I can still see the blood on the sidewalk," Mr. Boulmetis said. "I can still hear the ambulances."

During the zoning hearing, board members' comments indicated support for the project -- and little sympathy for the fears of merchants.

"I think this is going to be a great partnership," Ms. Blattermann told Mr. Boulmetis, pointing out that Paca House residents would probably be daily customers of the market.

If a state loan comes through within the next several weeks, Catholic Charities hopes to begin construction soon, said the Rev. Thomas Bonderenko, the program manager.

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