Racetrack housing wins award


Complex: An effort to help low-salaried racetrack employees at Laurel Park Race Track receives national recognition.

January 04, 2001|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

A PIONEERING dormitory project that provides affordable housing for 72 backstretch workers at Laurel Park raceway has been honored with an Award of Excellence from the National Association for County Community and Economic Development.

Known as Laurel Commons, the almost $2 million project was constructed to improve living conditions for workers who groom and exercise horses at the track. The previous housing was constructed 60 years ago and had been described as the some of the worst in Anne Arundel County.

The "HOME" award was presented to Arundel Community Development Services Inc. for the "innovative, effective and exemplary" use of federal funds to provide housing that can be a model for others. The private, nonprofit organization administers Anne Arundel County's housing and community development programs,

Other partners of the development team were the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development; the Enterprise Foundation; the Ryan Family Foundation; and the Laurel Racing Association.

"Through the collaborative efforts and commitment of these organizations, Laurel Commons is housing some of the most needy residents of Anne Arundel County," said Kathleen Koch, executive director of Arundel Community Development Services.

The organization "is proud to be part of the team that was able to create viable housing for the backstretch workers of Laurel Park," Koch said.

"We believe that this project can serve as an example for other racetracks across the country," she said.

Laurel Park functions like other racetracks around the country with owners and trainers employing workers to care for the horses in the track's backstretch - the area away from the racetrack, where horses are stabled and groomed.

State, local and private agencies and organizations coordinated efforts to finance and develop housing for these low-income members of the racing industry - who generally make about $12,000 a year.

The two two-story buildings were opened in the fall on a 1.2-acre site. Each building has 17 fully furnished rooms with two occupants per room, with one room that is accessible to people in wheelchairs.

Each building also has a separate dwelling for a resident manager who provides counseling and referral services for residents. The rent is up to $206 per unit, depending on the occupants' income.

Probst Mason of Baltimore was the architect, and Kinsley Construction of York, Pa., was the contractor.

Based in Baltimore, Enterprise Homes is a developer of houses and rental units in the mid-Atlantic region, with more than 3,700 units completed or under development.

"This effort has been a true partnership," said Chickie Grayson, president and chief executive officer of Enterprise Homes.

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