Balto. Co. seeking to buy more Tall Trees buildings

Council OK is expected for $4.5 million purchase

January 16, 2001|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County Bureau of Land Acquisition is seeking approval from the County Council for seven contracts of sale worth $4.5 million to buy 29 more buildings at the Villages of Tall Trees in Essex.

The council is expected to approve the latest step in the county's acquisition of the 105 World War II-era apartments for demolition. When the demolition is completed, the land will be used for a park, officials said.

The razing of Tall Trees, on Old Eastern Avenue, is part of the revitalization plan to upgrade Essex-Middle River with new homes, a beautification project on Eastern Boulevard and the development of a riverfront tourist destination.

This month, officials are scheduled to choose one of three teams of developers to construct homes, a commercial cluster and possibly a senior center where the run-down Riverdale apartments stood since the early 1940s.

By 2006, state planners expect the Route 43 extension to be completed from Interstate 95 to Eastern Boulevard, a stretch of road that eventually will be flanked by new homes and commercial development.

On the Tall Trees project, the county has dedicated $21.8 million to the demolition of the buildings, tenant relocation and development costs.

Once the council approves the latest round of contracts, 73 buildings will have been acquired from the owners. Demolition can begin after 79 buildings have been acquired by the county.

Originally called Mars Estates, the apartments housed defense workers who flocked to Middle River and the Glenn L. Martin aircraft plant in 1941. After the war, young families lived in the apartments before they moved into houses.

The development was purchased by an absentee landlord, and Tall Trees was converted to mostly federally subsidized tenants. Crime rose, and the area declined.

Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Democrat from Perry Hall who represents the east side in the 5th District, said the removal of Tall Trees will be a community improvement.

"It is our goal to eliminate this blighted area and to improve the Essex and Middle River community by creating a useful and attractive park at this site," he said.

In one of several unsuccessful attempts to improve Tall Trees, a wrought-iron fence was erected around the complex to help police chase and more easily capture suspects. A self-help station featuring county services and a police substation also failed to improve the area or cut crime.

Tall Trees is adjacent to property being developed for the $34 million Hopewell Pointe venture.

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