Renewal project nears approval in Balto. Co. Play areas to replace run-down apartments

July 24, 1996|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Continuing the push to revive Baltimore County's east side, officials are nearing an agreement to demolish hundreds of run-down apartment units and replace them with baseball and soccer fields.

County and federal officials have been meeting with the property management firm Partners Management Co. to rehabilitate Tidewater Village, a complex of nearly 1,000 units in Chase, a spokesman for County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III said yesterday.

According to a proposal, nearly half the apartments would be leveled, with the rest being spruced up, inside and outside.

Ruppersberger has targeted several apartment complexes to be torn down and replaced with single-family homes as part of a broad campaign to revitalize aging and crime-ridden communities in eastern Baltimore County. For example, the owner of Riverdale Village apartments, a complex of 1,140 units on Eastern Boulevard in Middle River, is under investigation for receiving federal rent subsidies after defaulting on a $5.4 million government-backed mortgage. And Chesapeake Village apartments near Martin State Airport will be demolished and replaced with single-family housing after officials settle a dispute over the privately held mortgage there.

Of the 64,590 people who live in Essex-Middle River, nearly half rent their homes or apartments.

"We hope that when negotiations are completed, the Tidewater Village plan will be a positive step for the east side strategy to revitalize that half of the county," said Ruppersberger spokesman Michael H. Davis.

Francis X. Knott, chief executive of Partners Management, said a memorandum of understanding has been drafted and is awaiting approval by him, county officials and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"This is not yet a done deal, but it is being worked on a cooperative basis," Knott said.

People familiar with the Tidewater Village proposal said it calls for the demolition of 460 units -- which are nearly vacant. Residents dislocated can move to the remaining units at the complex on Eastern Avenue Extended at the top of Saltpeter Creek.

Knott said the remaining 520 units will be upgraded with new interior and exterior work. A meeting will be held Aug. 5 in a community church to brief residents on their options.

"One of our primary concerns is that we do right by the residents there," said P. David Fields, director of the county Office of Community Conservation. "We want to make sure people are treated properly, that they get the opportunity to live in safe and affordable housing while we raise standards in the county."

If the Tidewater agreement is signed as is, HUD would pay demolition costs and the county would build recreational facilities such as baseball and soccer fields. Tidewater Village is adjacent to a planned 500-acre nature center and park surrounded by Dundee and Saltpeter creeks.

"If the county is successful in demolishing Tidewater, Riverdale and Chesapeake, that would mean 1,500 units removed from the landscape that have been nothing but trouble for police," said Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a 5th District Democrat.

"At Riverdale," Gardina said, "it seems drug dealers, prostitutes and other criminal elements have taken over."

According to the most recent statistics, the Essex police precinct received 60,000 calls for service in one year, with 11,000 reported crimes and 4,000 arrests.

Five apartment complexes -- including Riverdale and the nearby Village of Tall Trees -- accounted for the bulk of the cases, which included considerable narcotics traffic and prostitution.

Earlier this year, officials opened a community center offering various social services at Tall Trees, a move that has helped cut back on some criminal activity.

Officials have noted that a majority of crime is centered in 31 low-income housing complexes.

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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