Homes give some a public-housing alternative

Private-sector funding continues revitalization of Sandtown-Winchester

June 18, 1999|By Zanto Peabody | Zanto Peabody,SUN STAFF

Glenn Robinson has a new four-bedroom, two-bath home in the Sandtown-Winchester community -- but what he appreciates most are the steps.

"Out here, we can sit out on the steps," Robinson said yesterday. "Our kids can play in the back, and we don't have to worry about them or worry about the wrong people hanging out on our steps."

Robinson's is one of 14 families leasing homes in the new public housing neighborhood of Reservoir Hill 10, recently completed by the city's Department of Housing and Community Development.

Yesterday, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, developers and representatives from community organizations celebrated the official opening of the $3 million group of seven buildings in the 1000 block of Mosher St.

"When I lived at 908 Valley St., it was always somebody sitting on the steps, drunk or selling drugs," Robinson said of his former East Baltimore home. "You just had to step over them. And then there were bullet holes in our door and everybody else's door or wall."

Schmoke said developments such as Reservoir Hill 10 and its predecessor, Reservoir Hill 7 in the same area, give low-income residents like Robinson the opportunity to move out of cramped, crowded, crime-ridden public housing into single-family houses.

"We wanted to create something people not only see as positive," Schmoke said, "but they would also be proud to live in."

In continuing the Sandtown-Winchester revitalization begun in 1989 with developer James Rouse, the city has used other private developers to create subsidized housing.

Hersch-Lauren LLC drew up a Reservoir 10 financial plan that included $1 million in public funding and $2 million from businesses, including a $1.2 million investment from First Union National Bank.

Things weren't perfect yesterday. An hour before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a man on a bicycle hollered across to a haggard man walking from corner to corner at Mosher Street and Fremont Avenue.

"When are you going to get me my money?" the bicyclist yelled. "I gave you what you needed, and I see you every day. If you don't give me my money next time I see you, I'm going to have to pop you so I keep my reputation."

Upstairs in her new Reservoir 10 townhouse on Mosher, Linda Gingles was undisturbed by the commotion outside. She continued straightening tables and chairs for housing officials who visited yesterday. The nursing technician lives with her 15-year-old twins.

"It's a whole lot better than when I was living on McHenry [Street]" in West Baltimore, Gingles said. "My daughters say it's a lot quieter over here. I'm renting here, but if they would sell it to me, I would buy it."

Zack Germroth, housing department spokesman, said $60 million is slated for new homes in Sandtown-Winchester. "Every building has been studied, analyzed and plotted," Germroth said.

"This housing community has become an incubator and laboratory for every city in the nation. As the mayor has said, we chose this community because it was the worst. If we can make this work in this neighborhood, anybody can make it work anywhere."

Pub Date: 6/18/99

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