Mixed-housing project described as 'finest' kind 140 subsidized homes set aside among 329 residences in plan

June 20, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

Public housing residents and working-class people will be living side by side under a $60 million plan for transforming the aging Flag House Courts community into an economically and culturally diverse neighborhood that can be a catalyst for the rejuvenation of East Baltimore.

Representatives for Flag House Courts LLC, the team selected to rebuild the 14.5-acre public housing community, yesterday outlined plans that call for construction of a low-rise development with 329 residences, as well as shops, businesses, a community center and other amenities.

One hundred forty residences will be set aside for public housing tenants, and 189 houses or apartments will be reserved for occupants who need no housing subsidies but want to live in this area, just north of the Inner Harbor and Little Italy.

A chief goal of the redevelopment team, which is working with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, is to create a community in which publicly subsidized housing is "nondistinguishable" from market-rate residences, according to managing director Scott Nordheimer.

Because it is several blocks from Baltimore's Inner Harbor and central business district, "This site is without a doubt one of the premier sites to be doing this and getting away from anything that's distinguished as public housing," Nordheimer said. "This is neighborhood development at its finest."

The proposed community is exactly the type of mixed-income community that the federal Department of Housing and Community Development is encouraging cities to build through its Hope VI program, said Al Barry of AB Associates, a local planning consultant working with Flag House Courts tenants and others in the area.

"It's not just a public housing neighborhood," Barry said. "It's a neighborhood that happens to have public housing as part of it."

The development team is headed by H.J. Russell & Co. of Atlanta, the nation's largest African-American construction company; Integral Group LLC of Atlanta; and Mid City Urban LLC of Bethesda. CHK Architects & Planners of Silver Spring is the architect.

Team members outlined their plans at a daylong public hearing held to give Flag House residents and others a chance to comment before the city applies for funds to begin reconstruction.

Baltimore's housing authority is expected to apply by June 29 for up to $35 million in federal money to help carry out the project. A decision on whether the money will be granted is expected by November.

The federal funds would be combined with state, city and private money to complete the development. The project's cost is still being determined, but planners say it is likely to exceed $60 million.

Flag House Courts is bounded roughly by Albemarle Street to the west, Pratt Street to the south, Exeter and Granby streets to the east and Watson Street to the north. It has 487 residences, of which about 150 are occupied.

The plan calls for the existing buildings to be demolished and replaced with rowhouses, apartments and other structures rising more than four stories. The city has included vacant and underutilized land beyond the original Flag House boundaries; the enlarged site is bounded roughly by Albemarle, Pratt and Fayette streets and Central Avenue.

The redevelopment plan must comply with a legal agreement between the housing authority and the American Civil Liberties Union that calls for at least 130 public housing residences on the site.

Of the 140 rowhouses set aside for public housing tenants in the latest plan, 113 would be for rent and 27 would be available under a "lease-purchase" arrangement. Of 189 nonsubsidized residences, 120 would be offered for rent starting at about $700 a month, and 69 would be sold.

In all, there would be 266 townhouses and 63 apartments, ranging from one to four bedrooms. The public housing and market-rate housing would be scattered over the site so that no one could tell at a glance who lives where.

The housing authority and its developers plan to raze Flag

House Courts in 2000 and build the replacement community over the next two years.

Dorothy G. Scott, president of the tenants' council, said 50 percent of the residents have expressed a desire to move into the replacement community, which most likely will get a new name.

"I'm comfortable with what's going on and how the process is taking place," she said. "We're getting there."

A Flag House Courts resident for 30 years, Scott said she's looking forward to the reconstruction because after it's complete, "we've got a chance to come back to something new. It's going to be great for all of us."

Pub Date: 6/20/98

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