Converting a Baltimore convent Homes: A nonprofit organization is transforming the historic building that once housed St. Elizabeth's nuns into 20 apartments for the elderly.

Urban Landscape

June 06, 1996|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

GET THEE TO a nunnery," Hamlet told Ophelia in one of Shakespeare's best-known plays.

By early next year, 20 Baltimoreans will be able to do just that -- without taking any vows.

St. Elizabeth's Convent in East Baltimore, one of the last convents in the city, will be converted into 20 apartments for the elderly by Jubilee Baltimore Inc.

Jubilee held groundbreaking ceremonies for the project yesterday at 35 N. Lakewood Ave. at Fairmount Avenue, just north of Patterson Park.

The nonprofit group acquired the building from the Archdiocese of Baltimore for $190,000 and plans to spend another $1.6 million to convert it into St. Elizabeth's Senior Housing.

"Southeast Baltimore has thousands of elderly residents, but fewer than 200 apartments for the elderly," said Charles B. Duff Jr., Jubilee's president. "Our project fills a real need."

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the convent was built in 1921 as an adjunct to St. Elizabeth's School and St. Elizabeth's of Hungary Church. It closed three years ago when it had only two nuns in residence.

Jubilee is a nonprofit corporation that has rebuilt more than 150 houses and apartments since its founding in 1980.

"Our aim is to allow elderly people to stay in their neighborhoods and remain active participants in their families and communities," Duff said. "That's why our buildings are small, like St. Elizabeth's, and are located in the heart of strong neighborhoods."

Kann & Associates is the architect for the project, and James W. Miller is the general contractor. Duff said the architects specified that wood trim and other interior details remain to preserve the character of the building. Four stained-glass windows from a second-floor chapel will be displayed in the entrance lobby, and crosses on the outside of the building will remain.

The state of Maryland is providing a loan of $494,000, and the city of Baltimore is lending $450,000. Enterprise Social Investment Corp. is making an equity investment of $880,000.

This is the second convent in Baltimore that Jubilee has purchased to convert to housing. Several years ago, it recycled the old St. Michael's Convent at Lombard and Wolfe streets to a 10-unit residence called The Convent.

Duff said Jubilee has received no applications from nuns who might want to live at St. Elizabeth's. He said retired nuns typically live together in housing affiliated with a certain religious order.

But if any did apply, he said, "We probably wouldn't turn them down. They tend to have good character references."

'Next Renaissance' is focus of workshop

Baltimore's "Next Renaissance" will be the subject of a three-hour forum that the Urban Land Institute will sponsor at the Pier 4 Power Plant today starting at 2 p.m. The purpose of the meeting, organizers say, is to see what effects local and national entertainment and education projects have on the economic and cultural life of the city.

Speakers include representatives for the Power Plant, the American Visionary Arts Museum, the Columbus Center and Port Discovery, as well as Baltimore Development Corp. Tickets cost $35 per person and are available at the door. For more information, call the ULI at (800) 321-5011.

Pub Date: 6/06/96

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