City homes to be razed Baltimore gets grant to demolish Murphy, Julian Gardens sites

Planned for summer

About 800 public units will be replaced by

362 low-rise dwellings

October 08, 1997|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Dennis O'Brien contributed to this article.

A huge West Baltimore public housing community will be demolished and replaced with a smaller community of low-income homeowners and renters in the city's latest effort to rebuild its troubled neighborhoods.

City leaders will announce today that Baltimore has won a $31.3 million federal grant to demolish the high-rise towers of George B. Murphy Homes and the adjacent low-rise Emerson Julian Gardens in June or July.

Under the plan, about 800 public housing units, mostly high-rise, will be replaced with 362 low-rise dwellings and townhouses. About a third of the units will be for sale. The others will be rented by people who receive public assistance.

"Having this mix will stabilize the community," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat who represents the area and who was to announce the grant this morning at the official opening of the Pleasant View Gardens public housing complex, formerly known as Lafayette Courts.

"We want these neighborhoods to stay strong," Cummings said. "I see this as another part of the building process of the city, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood."

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday that he wants to transform the entire neighborhood, which has been home to more than a thousand public housing units for decades.

The sites of Lexington Terrace, Murphy Homes and Julian Gardens, all close together on the west side of Martin Luther King Boulevard, will change drastically under the city's plan. Trees, sidewalks, playgrounds and a reconfiguring of the roads have been proposed.

Schmoke and Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III want to use federal dollars to redesign a highway that runs through the west side communities and has been a sore point with the neighborhoods and city leaders for years. The controversial Interstate 170 -- a 1.3-mile expressway built in 1973 that runs from the western edge of downtown through the Franklin-Mulberry corridor and ends abruptly west of Monroe Street -- could be narrowed under the plan.

The federal grant, for which the Housing Authority of Baltimore City applied July 18, does not include money for redesigning the highway, Schmoke said.

Cummings said that redeveloping the area will also help the troubled Pennsylvania Avenue shopping district.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant is the third major award of federal money to help Baltimore replace the ragged, crime-infested public housing complexes with smaller, mixed-income communities.

It is part of an ambitious $293 million plan financed by the city, state and federal governments to replace the high-rises at Lafayette, Lexington Terrace, Murphy Homes and Flag House Courts with modern rowhouses, businesses, health clinics and day care centers.

All four developments were built in the 1950s and early 1960s but deteriorated into desolate and dangerous areas that became symbols of failed housing policies.

Lafayette Courts' six towers and 17 low-rise units have been replaced with about 200 townhouses, with most of the units available for homeownership and about 100 of them reserved for the elderly.

Today, the city is holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony where it will officially rename the development Pleasant View Gardens.

The Townes at the Terraces also is planned for the site of Lexington Terrace, a complex of five public-housing high-rises demolished last year.

Public-housing tenants at the Terraces will live next to homeowners in 303 townhouses. The complex will include an 88-unit senior-citizen building as well as a business center and retail space to provide residents training and job opportunities.

Pub Date: 10/08/97

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