Public housing metamorphosis rolls on

City opens Terraces, celebrates HUD grant for Broadway Homes

September 08, 1999|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Federal Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo awarded the city $21.3 million yesterday to demolish and rebuild the crumbling Broadway Homes public housing project in East Baltimore.

Cuomo announced the grant during the grand opening of The Terraces, the West Baltimore community that replaced the Lexington Terrace projects.

The city's efforts to replace dilapidated public housing projects and increase homeownership will continue at the Broadway Homes, a 429-unit development completed in 1971 near Broadway and Orleans Street, which is scheduled to be demolished in March to make room for construction of 140 townhouses (120 rental and 20 for sale), 10,000 square feet of retail space and a 1,600-space parking garage. The project could be completed in 18 months.

A 150-room, eight-story hotel could also replace the vacant 22-story Broadway Tower senior-citizen housing project as part of the redevelopment effort. Developers set no timetable for completing the hotel.

The Broadway Homes project will be the fourth major overhaul of the city's public housing stock to be financed largely by the Hope VI program. Started in 1993, the Department of Housing and Urban Development program has provided cities $3.5 billion to improve public housing -- often by demolishing and rebuilding it to look like suburban villages.

"Where public housing works is where you don't even know it's public housing," Cuomo said. "Blow it up, take it down and rebuild it right."

Cuomo was joined yesterday by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski and most of the city's political leadership.

Hope VI helped finance The Terraces, which replaced Lexington Terrace's urine-stained, bullet-riddled walls. The $64.2 million initiative, financed in part by more than $10 million from NationsBank (now Bank of America), created 100 for-sale townhouses, 203 rental townhomes and 88 units of senior housing.

"What stood as a warehouse for the poor now stands as a beautiful community," Schmoke said.

Residents who recently moved into the townhouses welcomed the chance to start anew.

Brenda C. Jones, 39, lived in the recently imploded Murphy Homes for 35 years and now owns a two-story townhouse with a front porch, gleaming white walls, thick carpeting, Internet access, a finished basement and a small back yard.

"My kids will be able to grow up in a place other than the projects," said Jones, a laid-off cook who bought her home for $65,000 with the help of subsidized mortgage rates. "I don't think I am going to have to worry about people selling drugs and violence."

As a homeowner at The Terraces, Jones will be offered a two-week computer course and the chance to buy a computer at a greatly reduced rate as a graduation gift. Residents of the development's rental units will receive free computers.

The $1.7 million federally funded computer program is intended to bridge the widening gap in the computer skills between rich and poor Americans, HUD officials said.

In recent weeks, some city residents have questioned why public housing tenants will receive a free computer, when the average city resident would have to work more than 80 hours to afford one of the machines, which cost $1,000 or more.

Dorian McFadden, 26, a laborer, was not aware that The Terraces were equipped with Internet access. Born and raised in Lexington Terrace, he said he has a hard time believing where he lives now: "From the projects to this? I don't think so."

Sun staff writer Jamie Stiehm contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 9/08/99

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