Rebirth of a Community

March 06, 1995

The renovation of the Bay Ridge Gardens apartments in Annapolis has passed the halfway point.

New carpeting is being laid, broken windows replaced, plumbing fixed and new appliances installed. But more is happening here than the sprucing up of an aging apartment complex. Amid the hammering, sawing and painting, a community is being reborn.

The improvement has been a long time coming. For years, residents endured faulty plumbing, electrical hazards and broken windows. The complex in the southwest corner of the city became a haven for drug dealers. Conditions became so bad that two years ago, Annapolis housing inspectors ran out of patience with the owners and condemned the 196-unit complex.

In December 1993, a group of tenants and a Rhode Island development company that specializes in rehabilitating properties got together and bought the complex. Using a combination of public and private money, the new owners embarked on a $12 million renovation.

In addition to rehabilitating the apartments, the new owners are building four basketball courts, two playgrounds and a picnic area to give residents safe places to meet and play. A new community center will provide after-school sports and tutoring for the neighborhood youngsters.

But the renovation of this community is happening in ways more vital than bricks, paint and mortar.

The rent schedule has been restructured to make the apartments more affordable. A community watch program has begun to fight crime. And residents are being given the opportunity to make the rules and oversee the properties.

Within 12 years, residents will be able to buy out the investors and manage their own apartments independently. When that day comes, the residents will no longer be tenants who need worry about landlords. They will be owners in charge of their own destinies.

Bay Ridge Gardens won't be transformed overnight. Crime remains a problem and some residents having heard much empty talk before remain suspicious of the new management group. But the renovations now in progress are giving residents of the complex a second chance at creating a real community.

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