Vote on Murphy Homes project delayed

Comptroller questions redevelopment costs

January 04, 2001|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

The Board of Estimates deferred a vote yesterday on spending $6.9 million toward redevelopment of a former public housing site in West Baltimore, after City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt questioned the projected $232,000 cost per unit.

The $60.4 million project, on the site of the former George P. Murphy Homes, calls for building 185 houses for sale and 75 rental units for families who meet federal low-income standards.

Nearly half the development money - $28.3 million - will come from federal housing funds, including $15.8 million in development fees that do not include demolition, acquisition and construction costs. The $6.9 million on the board agenda yesterday is the city's share of the cost.

Pratt asked for more spending detail on the project, at Martin Luther King Boulevard and West Franklin Street.

"It appears that each unit is going to cost $232,000," Pratt said after the meeting. "That's a lot of money."

The site is one of four locations where city high-rise housing projects were demolished with the intention of redeveloping them.

Among the redevelopment costs are $7.6 million for demolition, $1.7 million for acquisition and $35.2 million for construction. Other costs include $5.6 million in nondevelopment expenses, $4.3 million in development fees, and $5.8 million in so-called "soft costs" such as fees for lawyers and architects.

Enterprise Homes Inc., the for-profit arm of the nonprofit Enterprise Foundation, and A&R Development Corp. of Baltimore submitted the winning bid to the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to develop the project. Harkins Builders Inc. of Silver Spring is the general contractor.

Chickie Grayson, president of Enterprise Homes Inc., could not be reached to comment. A spokesman for the company said developers intend to appear before the board next week to address the concerns.

The costs for Heritage Crossing would be less than for the demolition and redevelopment of two other former public housing projects.

Mayor Martin O'Malley said he also had questions about the project cost but added that he is eager to get the project moving.

"It is not inexpensive to build new housing in the city," O'Malley said. "None of it is cheap."

In other action, the Board of Estimates approved a $1 million loan to Sylvan Learning Systems for improvements to its Inner Harbor headquarters. Half the loan would be converted to a grant if the company creates 1,800 jobs.

Pratt voted against the loan, noting the city's projected budget deficit this year of $22 million.

"We shouldn't be giving money away," Pratt said.

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