Demolition of boarded-up apartments in Bolton Hill starts with ceremony today Complex will give way to 84 townhouses

June 21, 1997|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

One of Baltimore's most troubled apartment complexes will disappear starting today, when city, state and federal officials gather to begin demolishing the 268-unit Eutaw Gardens complex in northern Bolton Hill.

In its place will rise Spicer's Run at Bolton Hill, a privately financed $12 million community designed for middle-income homebuyers with 84 townhouses with base prices ranging from $115,000 to $130,000.

An 11 a.m. "wall-bashing ceremony" near the southeast corner of North Avenue and Eutaw Place will mark the culmination of a four-year campaign by nearby residents to remove the largest cluster of substandard housing in the area and replace it with homes that will strengthen the surrounding community.

"I know that hundreds of residents of Bolton Hill and Reservoir Hill will be very happy to watch the wrecking ball come in," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, one of many dignitaries scheduled to attend the ceremony.

The 6.7-acre property to be cleared is bounded by Eutaw Place, North Avenue, Robert Street and Bolton Street. It contains 19 derelict buildings that have been boarded up since fall.

"This is probably the single best piece of news that Bolton Hill has had in 20 years or more," said Micheleen M. McNeill, a Eutaw Place resident who led the effort to get Eutaw Gardens torn down.

"It's a new chapter in housing for the city, a case in which the community was involved in the planning from the beginning as opposed to housing officials taking a top-down approach," McNeill said. "It's the reversal of some of the worst things about urban renewal. It shows that the residents themselves know what is best for the community."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development began efforts to take control of the property in 1995, after its owners, Eutaw Redevelopment Associates of Marina del Rey, Calif., defaulted on a federally insured loan.

HUD took its action as part of a national campaign, called "Get Tough," against landlords who fail to provide good communities for their residents while profiting from the department's programs.

HUD moved the residents and agreed to sell the land for $1 to the city, which sought proposals for it last year. After receiving three bids, the Schmoke administration selected a plan by Blair McDaniels, headed by Wendy Blair and Derek McDaniels.

Demolition will take about three months. Construction of the townhouses is scheduled to begin by fall and take several years. The first houses are to be ready for occupancy in mid-1998.

The houses were designed by D. W. Taylor and Associates of Ellicott City to be compatible with the Victorian-era houses in the Bolton Hill historic district.

The target market is families that want to live in an established city neighborhood but don't want to buy older residences that might need extensive renovations.

The city is contributing about $1 million for site work, effectively making the price of each home about $40,000 less than that of a residence of similar size in the suburbs.

"We've seen a real market in Baltimore City for middle-income housing, and we think this is an excellent site for it," said Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III.

McNeill, a pathologist and renovator, is equally confident that buyers will emerge.

"It seems that houses have been selling in that price range," she said. "People want the convenience of in-city living, but they don't want the hassles of renovating."

HUD Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement that Eutaw Gardens is one of the first apartment complexes in the nation to be demolished under HUD's campaign.

"HUD is not in the business of subsidizing rich landlords so they can live in luxury while they let their tenants live in slums," he said. "Landlords who get assistance from HUD have a legal obligation to provide safe, decent and affordable housing to some of the poorest and most vulnerable Americans. If they refuse, we will take severe action against them.

Pub Date: 6/21/97

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