Senior housing proposed at Aigburth Vale Balto. Co. is considering $5.5 million apartment plan

December 24, 1997|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

If a new proposal for dilapidated Aigburth Vale in Towson is approved, the former villa of one of the 19th century's most famous comedians will become housing for the elderly.

The $5.5 million plan, recently submitted to Baltimore County officials, calls for building 70 one-bedroom apartments -- six in the historic mansion and 64 in a four-story addition behind the main house. A glass-enclosed breezeway would connect the buildings.

"We think it's a wonderful project that won't impact a lot of people," said Leo J. D'Aleo, who heads the development company Aigburth Vale LLC. "The project would be an asset to the community."

Neighbors, who will meet with the developer next month, are guardedly optimistic.

"At this point, we say it's definitely worth looking at," said Judith Giacomo, president of Aigburth Manor Community Association. "We need to be able to work with the developer about issues that may be of concern to us -- how big the project will be, how much traffic there will be."

According to the plan, the complex, to be called Aigburth Vale Senior Community, would include doctors' offices in a smaller historic residence on the property and arts and crafts, woodworking and exercise facilities in other outbuildings.

But the key component of the plan is restoration of the 1868 mansion, said D'Aleo, managing principal of D'Aleo and Associates, architect for the project. In addition to the exterior renovation, the first floor of the mansion would be converted into common spaces for residents, including a library, parlor, card room and private dining room.

"We want to restore it back to what historical studies say," said D'Aleo, whose architectural company is involved in converting the old Cockeysville Elementary School into a $6.1 million, 120-unit apartment complex for the elderly called Warren Place.

Aigburth was the once-grand mansion of comedic actor John Owens -- often called the Bob Hope of his era. In recent years, the house deteriorated while owned by the county school system.

County government took control of the 22-room house and outbuildings last year. Since then, it has been trying to sell the 3.3-acre property for $500 to anyone who would restore the mansion.

Two previous proposals for Aigburth -- one for offices, the other for a bed-and-breakfast -- fell through. Builder Martin P. Azola decided not to pursue renovating the 22-room, French-style mansion into offices after learning that two outbuildings he was going to rent out were in a flood plain.

The other plan -- a 17-room inn that would have required commercial zoning -- met with community resistance.

County officials will begin contract negotiations with D'Aleo, said Shirley Murphy, chief of the county Bureau of Land Acquisition. The project also needs approval by the county Landmarks Preservation Commission and the County Council.

D'Aleo, who will seek placement of the mansion on the National )) Register of Historic Places, said he hopes to start construction next year if he gets the necessary approvals.

Pub Date: 12/24/97

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