The transformation of Villages of Tall Trees, once a crime-ridden and dilapidated section of Baltimore County's Eastside, begins tomorrow with the dedication of four spacious condominiums, where a condemned apartment building once stood.
The $60,000 units have been sold pending credit approval for buyers, and developers are prepared to close deals on three other buildings in the Essex complex, continuing the process of replacing renters with property owners.
"It's a major step in improving the area, bringing in homeowners," County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a 5th District Democrat, said yesterday.
"The investment of private money also represents the significant turnaround at Old Eastern Avenue and Back River Neck Road, the two poorest census tracts in the county," he said. "People aren't going to invest if they don't see a future there."
Less than a block away, in another census tract, developers have begun work at Hopewell Pointe, a $34 million development of 221 detached homes and condominiums off Middle River. That development, also being bankrolled with private funds over five to 10 years, will feature a restaurant and marina for residents.
The developments are part of an Eastside revitalization plan pushed by officials who want to change an area beset with
World War II-vintage apartment complexes and pockets of criminal activity and poverty.
Three complexes -- Riverdale, Chesapeake Village and Tidewater Village -- will be demolished or partially dismantled, with tenants moved to other properties.
Capt. Jim Johnson, commander of the Essex police precinct, said Tall Trees had a 22 percent reduction in serious crime last year. He credited the county community conservation plan, a heightened police presence and a $300,000 wrought-iron and brick fence around the complex.
"Crime is still high but we are very happy with the sustained reduction and the fact residents and apartment managers have helped stabilize the area," he said.
Condominium developers at Tall Trees -- where more than 30 landlords own 105 apartment buildings -- are headed by Thomas J. Coulthard III, who manages properties in Baltimore and three cemeteries in the county.
"We are hearing from a lot of empty nesters, some other retirees, on our ads," he said. "The entire Eastside appears headed for a new life. There's encouraging news on the proposed NASCAR (( raceway in Middle River, the planned mini-Harborplace near Martin State Airport."
The 1,000-square-foot condominiums on Doolittle Road have three bedrooms and two baths. Builders tore the eight old apartments down to the brick walls in a building that had been condemned by county inspectors a year ago after more than 70 violations were noted.
"This isn't a paint and powder job," Coulthard said.
A young couple and a retiree are among those who might move into the condominiums, he said, adding that the apartment building cost his investment team about $100,000 to purchase.