County buys Riverdale apartment complex, advancing efforts to renew Middle River

Officials to decide soon how land should be used

September 14, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

The future of Riverdale -- a vacant apartment complex once considered one of Middle River's most blighted areas -- should be decided in the next few months as county officials begin talks about what to build there.

County officials said yesterday that they have bought 38 acres of Riverdale so that the county owns the entire complex.

They intend to demolish the 600 vacant apartments and develop a park, a residential community or some commercial project on the 64 acres.

"Soon everything you see behind me will be a memory," County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger said during a news conference at Riverdale about the purchase.

The Riverdale project is part of a major revitalization effort for Middle River aimed at capitalizing on the area's potential as a waterfront attraction and a home for middle-class families.

Ruppersberger said the county will advertise soon for contractors to bid on the $2.3 million project to demolish the two-story brick units. Demolition should begin in December and take about six months, he said.

Ruppersberger said that a group of county planners will form a task force with Riverdale's neighbors and that he will consider the group's recommendations about how to use the parcel, which is zoned for residential development.

The county bought the tract for $268,000 this month from Capital Asset Research Funding, a Florida investment firm that had acquired the property after Riverdale's previous owner, Florida real estate investor Richard Schlesinger, defaulted on its property taxes.

Schlesinger, of Palm Beach, Fla., is facing a $1 million federal civil suit that alleges misuse of the $5.4 million federally backed mortgage issued to finance Riverdale's operations.

A Bethesda attorney for Schlesinger declined to comment on the case.

The 38 acres are the second parcel acquired by the county as part of its effort to clean up Riverdale.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development donated an adjacent 26 acres to the county last year after HUD foreclosed on it and tore down 400 apartments, said James S. Kelly, a HUD community builder in Baltimore.

Neighbors said they would like to see a park, a recreation center or a community of single-family homes.

"I'd like to see some single family homes with a nice big park in the middle of it," said Jay Miller, 29, a neighbor.

Laura Handley, president of the Middlesex Civic Association, said the 1,100-home community needs a park.

"There's no place for the children to play around here," she said.

Handley said that closing Riverdale was a major boost for Middlesex, a community of modest brick homes that were built in the 1950s and sell for between $75,000 and $85,000.

"People began to feel a little bit safer once Riverdale was gone," she said.

Two nearby apartment complexes, Tall Trees and Chesapeake Village, are being demolished by the county.

Tidewater Village, another privately owned apartment complex that is nearby, is undergoing a multimillion makeover.

Pub Date: 9/14/99

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