Morgan State's purchase of apartment buildings leaves residents uncertain

Community members would move for dorms

June 14, 1999|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

The Pentridge complex, modest brick garden apartments near Morgan State University, is the kind of place where single, elderly women keep tabs on each other: playing cards, shopping together and calling one another at night to make sure each is home safe.

Such decades-old rhythms of life might be at risk. The university is acquiring the apartment complex to make room for 208 student dormitory units. It plans to take control of the property by June 19, 2000 and, to the dismay of residents who have lived in the development for up to 30 years, force everyone to move.

A Morgan State spokesman, Wiley Hall, said Friday that the university is "moving to acquire the Pentridge and will make every effort to help them [residents] relocate."

The state is handling the real estate transaction, according to public documents, at a cost of $3.26 million. The state Board of Public Works approved the purchase from Pentridge Apartments Ltd. Partnership on May 19, but Friday, university officials said only that the sale is "pending."

Under terms approved by the state board, 20 percent of the units will be "set aside" for rental to low-income tenants in the next year. But after June 2000, all 26 buildings, between Loch Raven Boulevard and Perring Parkway, will be under Morgan's control and no longer a residential rental property. Leases that expire in January will not be renewed.

State documents indicate that Morgan officials sought the 13-acre parcel for "much-needed" student housing on its 122-acre Northeast Baltimore campus.

Residents had heard rumors that the buildings might be acquired by what some consider a land-hungry neighbor.

If the sale goes through, residents' fears of being displaced will be realized.

Worst was the uncertainty and surprise, some Pentridge residents said.

"They're going to put everybody out and put 500 students in here," said Truxon Sykes, who has lived in Pentridge for 10 of his 55 years. Sykes has led more than one evening meeting in which he tried to alert neighbors. "They [Morgan State] are dispersing a whole community in an underhanded way. That's about it."

William Parker, a World War II veteran and retired sheet metal and lithograph worker, said that he and his wife, Rosalie, have been "asking for answers, but not getting any. Nobody's telling us nothing." Parker, 75, has lived in Pentridge for 12 years.

About half of the Pentridge apartments are occupied by people with low incomes who receive rental subsidies, many of them senior citizens.

Julia Montgomery, president of the nearby Northeast Community Organization, said she found it disheartening that "the tenants are the last to know. People have been here a long time. Old people come out and sit until 8, 9 at night."

"This is their home," she said. "It's not a transient but a solid community. Where will they have to move?"

Montgomery said she also feared the effect on Northwood and other neighborhoods. "In many ways, it is destabilizing. Students don't have the same kind of ownership. Morgan is taking care of Morgan's interests, but they have not thought about the impact on the remainder of the community."

Margaret Coad, 66, treasurer of the Pentridge Tenants Association, said moving is particularly hard for elderly people, who are vulnerable to having their familiar patterns, surroundings and social life disrupted.

"There's green grass fenced in," Coad said. "There's space to breathe and room to walk, so no one really wants to move."

Pub Date: 6/14/99

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