Sale of decrepit apartments to developer wins judge's ok Northeast area residents fear further decline

September 19, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore Circuit judge yesterday approved the sale of a decrepit Northeast Baltimore apartment complex to a group headed by developer Otis Warren, despite protests from nearby LTC homeowners who worry the buildings will fall into ruin.

Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan approved the sale of the 18-acre Strathdale Manor Apartments after an unconventional hearing at which he allowed leaders from the Frankford Improvement Association to cross-examine Warren and other proponents of the project.

Kaplan has overseen the complex since it went into default two years ago.

Warren and his partners want to renovate the buildings, add air conditioning and redesign the streets to make the community safer.

Community leaders, saying they received short notice of the hearing, had no lawyer representing them, but used City Councilwoman Lois Garey at the spur of the moment to cross-examine government officials and Warren about his plans to renovate the largely vacant complex.

Warren came with more than a dozen lawyers, development officials and city and state bureaucrats who urged the judge to approve the sale before $1.3 million in state tax credits for investors run out.

After hearing testimony that no other developers have shown interest in renovating the 123 apartment buildings, Kaplan said, "The neighborhood will get nothing if this property is abandoned. It will sit there without tenants and will be vandalized.

"There really isn't any choice. There's disaster vs. opportunity," he said.

Community leaders, who own modest rowhouses adjacent to the project, told the judge they want the apartment buildings demolished and replaced with townhouses for sale. They said they fear the developers will rent apartments exclusively to low-income tenants, then let the project deteriorate.

The longtime neighbors of the project, in the 6100 block of Frankford Avenue, have seen it suffer under several previous owners from rent-court battles, drug traffic, vandalism, shootings and abandonment.

Raymond Lowder, president of the improvement association, told the judge that he and his neighbors, who own about 1,500 homes, are outnumbered by about 4,000 subsidized apartments already in the area.

"We're not against subsidized housing, but the community already has its share," he said.

Warren testified that prospective tenants will be screened for criminal backgrounds before being allowed to move in.

Pub Date: 9/19/96

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