Mayor stops plans to renovate apartments Complaints of crime cycle at complex affect decision

February 21, 1997|By William E. Thompson Jr. | William E. Thompson Jr.,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday that the city will halt plans for a $21 million renovation of Strathdale Manor Apartment complex in Northeast Baltimore and that a decision has yet to be made on what to do with the site.

Schmoke said he decided after meeting with members of Frankford Improvement Association, homeowners whose property borders the complex and who have adamantly opposed the project. He said consideration of Strathdale's history over the past three decades also figured in his decision.

"Based on all that I've seen, it can't be renovated," Schmoke said. "It would just go through another cycle of refurbishment followed by more decline into crime and violence."

Raymond Lowder, president of the community association, said his group met with the mayor Feb. 4 and the mayor agreed with members that the renovation project, led by a group of investors headed by developer Otis Warren, should be stopped.

"This community has been dumped on by the government enough," Lowder said, praising the mayor's decision. "It would not have enhanced the community."

Warren would not comment on a meeting he had yesterday with Baltimore circuit Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan, who had overseen the complex since it defaulted on loans in 1994. Warren said he intended to talk to the mayor about the decision.

Kaplan, who in September approved the sale of the 18-acre, 123-building complex to Warren's group, also would not comment on the specifics of the meeting or why it was called.

Lowder, who has lived in the area for 20 years, cited concern about crime and violence as the primary reason for his group's opposition.

"We've had some shootings. We've had some drug deals. We've had enough of it in the area, and the history of the complex has shown us enough" to believe crime would continue, Lowder said.

He said concerns increased last summer when Warren told area residents that all of the renovated housing had to be subsidized. According to Lowder, Warren previously had said that it would be mostly moderate-income housing.

Instead of more renovation proposals, Lowder wants the city to destroy the apartments and build townhouses, a move he said would end repeated episodes of developers failing to keep repair promises.

That also would increase home ownership in the area -- which he said would reduce crime and reverse the migration that has been occurring since the complex went up in 1963.

He said a local industrial park has expressed interest in expanding on the property.

Pub Date: 2/21/97

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