City OKs funds for housing proposal

Board of Estimates completes contribution toward Heritage Crossing

January 11, 2001|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

The city Board of Estimates has approved spending $4.7 million toward the planned redevelopment of the site of a former public housing complex in West Baltimore, providing the final piece of public funding needed for the project to break ground.

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

"Heritage Crossing is a great development that seeks to bring about new housing with mixed incomes in the inner city, which all of us want to do," Mayor Martin O'Malley said after the board's vote yesterday.

Nearly half the development money - $28.3 million - will come from federal housing funds designed for such projects.

The $4.7 million approved yesterday comes on top of $2.3 million already spent or committed by the city - fulfilling the city's $7 million commitment to the project. The project is also receiving state and private money.

The board had delayed action for a week when Comptroller Joan M. Pratt questioned the overall cost of the development, which she put at $232,000 per unit when all nonconstruction costs are included.

Among the redevelopment costs are $7.6 million for demolition, $1.7 million for acquisition and $35.2 million for construction of the units and related public infrastructure on the 32-acre site. 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 financing fees and legal and architectural bills.

Enterprise Homes Inc., the for-profit arm of the nonprofit Enterprise Foundation and a developer on the project, puts the average construction cost at $88,000 per unit.

Enterprise Homes 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.

In other action, the Board of Estimates approved the Police Department's request for a $250,000 fund to purchase certain items covertly without going through the normal public review process.

O'Malley said the fund, which uses already-budgeted dollars, will "prevent the bad guys" from finding out what high-technology devices the police are buying for special investigations.

Pratt and Council President Sheila Dixon had voiced concerns but voted to approve the secret fund on the assurance that the city finance director would review the purchases on a quarterly basis and submit confidential reports to the board.

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