Complex rededicated and renamed $2.2 million renovation for 100-unit Harper House

October 29, 1998|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Following a $2.2 million renovation project funded by the federal government and developed by an affiliate of the Rouse Co., a 27-year-old 100-unit subsidized housing complex near the Harper's Choice Village Center officially became Harper House at a rededication ceremony yesterday morning.

About 75 residents, community leaders and public officials, including Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker and Police Chief Wayne Livesay, gathered outside the nine-story high-rise. The ceremony marked the end of a yearlong project completed with the help of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Enterprise Foundation.

For years, the complex was known as Abbott House. Built in 1971 as part of James W. Rouse's vision for a community where people of all races and incomes could live side by side, it came to stand for some of the ills of "city" life; some residents and community leaders have complained that crime, including vandalism and drugs, had become commonplace there.

Now, with a new property management company in place, residents and officials hope the multimillion-dollar physical improve- ments made to the building -- including new roofing and windows, refurbished elevators and hallways, and extensive landscaping -- will prompt social improvements.

"Housing doesn't make any difference -- you can live in tents, we came out of caves," said Richard Walter, 70, a four-year resident of Harper House who won a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse gift certificate for the winning entry in the contest to rename the building. "What changed here that's important is expectations and attitudes."

Harper House is one of three subsidized housing complexes in Columbia being redeveloped by the Enterprise Foundation, a national nonprofit begun in 1982 by Rouse and his wife, Patty. Renovations to Sierra Woods in Long Reach and Stevens Forest in Oakland Mills are expected to be completed soon.

About a dozen Harper House residents came out yesterday to take part in the rededication.

"Everything's so beautiful," said Virginia Jones, 67, who has lived in the high-rise for nearly nine years. "I feel like it's going to get better."

Pub Date: 10/29/98

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