Conversion of Cockeysville Elementary into apartments for seniors is advancing County Council approves funding package, tax deal

June 04, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

At 77, Ruth Curtis isn't overly impatient, but she's waited years to see work start on the long-planned conversion of the former Cockeysville Elementary School to apartments for retirees and a new county senior center.

"I've been to several community meetings about it, but I haven't seen anything happen," the former teacher said of the school where she once taught. Built in 1926, the two-story stone structure in the 10500 block of York Road, near her Matthews Avenue home, sits as empty today as when it closed in June 1981.

But plans for redeveloping the 3.4-acre school site seem to be advancing. Last night, the Baltimore County Council approved two measures intended to help the county close a deal with private developers by August.

One measure approves a complex package of federal, state and county funding for the $8.5 million project; the other allows County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III to accept payments from the developer in lieu of taxes as part of the deal.

Basically, the county plans to give away a building it hasn't been able to sell or use. In return, it gets a free 12,000-square-foot senior center, in addition to outdoor bathrooms and a concession stand for the recreation fields and 120 new apartments for elderly county residents. The building, assessed most recently at $960,000, would go for $1 to the private developers, who then would lease the new senior center to the county for 50 years at $5 a year.

"I think it's a good trade-off and in the best interests of the people," said Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a Republican who represents the Cockeysville area. "It's an excellent, much-needed project."

The development partnership of D'Aleo Inc., an architectural company, and DCI Healthcare Inc. of Columbia will renovate the building, build two additions and expand parking to handle 125 vehicles.

Under the deal, the county will receive $12,000 to $30,000 a year, instead of the $43,396 a year in property taxes such a complex ordinarily would pay.

The Warren Place apartments will have one bedroom each. People 62 and older earning less than $22,020 a year -- $25,140 for couples -- will be eligible. Rents would be $480 a month, including utilities.

To help the developer, the state is providing a low-interest $4 million loan and $3 million worth of income tax credits that can be sold to other corporations. The county is providing a $500,000 loan from federal funds, plus a $200,000 local grant and the tax breaks.

Over the years, proposals for the site have ranged from a school for emotionally troubled youths to a music store and school. But plans bogged down, in part because of neighbors' opposition to proposed uses for the building or eliminating the ball fields.

The new senior center will enable the county to close the program it runs two days a week at St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lutherville, where 212 people are registered. Charles L. Fisher Jr., county director of aging, said he expects the new facility to draw more people.

After 45 years living a stone's throw from the old school building, Curtis said she might be one of those new members. She taught at the school in 1947.

"It was in good condition," she said, when it closed 15 years ago. "I'm looking forward to something being done."

Pub Date: 6/04/96

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