A house buys an education Patterson Park: Abell Foundation finances unusual experiment to promote neighborhood.

December 28, 1996

THE PATTERSON PARK area contains many stereotypical East Baltimore neighborhoods of rowhouses, white marble steps and painted window screens. But as residents have aged, enrollment at the local Catholic school has dwindled and its future is threatened.

The Abell Foundation has now come up with an unusual idea to promote both the neighborhood and the school. It is offering up to nine years of free education at the St. Elizabeth School to children whose parents purchase a renovated rowhouse from the non-profit East Fayette Street Community Development Corp.

"We've been very impressed with the job St. Elizabeth's is doing," Abell president Robert C. Embry Jr. said. The foundation, which had earlier given a start-up grant to provide mortgage guarantees to the East Fayette Street group, decided that it was time to experiment with a package that would give families buying houses an option for a free education as well.

"It is a test to see whether we can attract people who would not ordinarily look here," said Ed Rutkowski, founder of the community development corporation. The group currently offers 13 renovated two-to-four-bedroom houses for sale. Prices range range from $37,000 to $59,000. (Tel. 522-6966).

The Baltimore municipal government, in cooperation with a number of non-profit organizations, offers an impressive array of subsidies to families and individuals wanting to buy a house in the city. More are being planned. But the Abell initiative represents the first time free tuition has been added as an inducement. This is an intriguing idea.

Offering housing and a solid education in one package may be just what has been lacking in previous efforts at neighborhood revitalization.

Pub Date: 12/28/96

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