Walker Ave. housing targets senior tenants Nonprofit developer puts 88-unit project on city-county line

October 25, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Feeding the growing demand for decent, affordable housing for the elderly, work has begun on an 88-unit apartment house on Walker Avenue, straddling the city-county line east of York Road.

With at least 10 months until completion of the building, 50 people have registered with the nonprofit developer as prospective tenants.

"When we did studies last year on housing, we found there were 2,500 people on the waiting list," said Charles L. Fisher Jr., director of the Baltimore County Department of Aging. "Every time one [building] goes up, it's almost filled immediately. There's a real need for it."

The $6.6 million, three-story building has been four years in the planning, said Dean Reger, retiring regional manager of Cooperative Services Inc., a private, nonprofit company based in Detroit that has four other projects in the area.

"Our overall goal is to provide affordable housing for seniors -- a decent-quality place to live," Reger said. "We serve people living on Social Security and sometimes small pensions."

That's an important goal in the county, where seniors 60 and older make up 20 percent of the population, and where the fastest-growing age group consists of those 85 and older. With huge Campus Living Inc. complexes in Catonsville and Parkville, and smaller complexes for seniors of all income levels, the county stock of such housing is growing.

The Walker building is the latest of several subsidized projects by nonprofit developers. Others are under way or near completion in Essex, Lansdowne, Woodlawn and Cockeysville.

Despite the need for senior housing, the administration of County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger refuses to subsidize more new buildings, favoring conversion of sometimes blighted apartments in a campaign to revitalize older neighborhoods. For example, the Walker project has federal, private and Baltimore City subsidies, but no county money.

Tenants will pay no more than 30 percent of their monthly income for one-bedroom units, and they will choose the building's name and manage it. Those living in the complex must be at least age 62 and have incomes no higher than $19,450 for a single person or $22,250 for a couple. The average annual income will likely be about $12,000, Reger said.

Work began a few weeks ago on 3 acres on the south side of Walker Avenue facing a red brick mansion to the north and Walker Manor Apartments to the south.

Operating subsidies of $1.7 million -- enough for about seven years -- are being provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which also is providing most of the construction funding.

The complex will sit back from the street, with 76 units in the city and 12 in the county. It will have 60 parking spaces, a lounge on each floor, a beauty salon, office space, a library and common meeting and dining rooms.

Reger said some residents in the neighborhood of single and semidetached homes were upset when the project was proposed. "It was fear of the unknown," he said.

Now the community association and County Councilman Douglas B. Riley, a Towson Republican, are all for it. "It's a good project that will serve an important need," Riley said.

Scott Stevens, president of the 700-home Lake Walker Community Association, said his members have been impressed with the developer's willingness to work with residents to save mature trees, add landscaping and make minor design changes.

"Most people in our community view it as an asset," Stevens said.

One reason is that a long-vacant white clapboard house at the property's eastern edge -- now a construction office -- will be renovated and sold to new residents after the project is finished. That will remove an eyesore and return the home to county tax rolls, community officials say.

Reger said the developers were able to use higher quality materials because of about $500,000 in direct subsidies from Baltimore, the state government and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, which cut overall costs.

He said the first two stories of the building, being constructed by general contractor Struever Brothers, Eccles and Rouse, will be of brick and block, and the third will be frame with a peaked roof to blend with the neighborhood.

"What we hope, it will fit in with the streetscape in that area," said Reger, a former local HUD official.

Pub Date: 10/25/98

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