Plans change for ex-public housing site

Baltimore officials propose mixed use for Hollander Ridge

OK sought on funds use

ACLU objected to original concept of `senior village'

April 08, 2001|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Blocked by a court ruling last summer from building a "senior village" on the site of the demolished Hollander Ridge public housing project, Baltimore officials are proposing a mix of commercial and limited residential development on the parcel on the eastern edge of the city.

The city is also seeking federal approval to use the vast bulk of $19.4 million in funds originally earmarked for the revitalization of Hollander Ridge to overhaul the nearby Claremont Homes housing project and to finance private development of low-income housing units in up-and-coming neighborhoods.

The city's new plan for the Hollander Ridge money was quickly put together this winter in the face of a warning by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that its HOPE VI grant could be rescinded if no alternate use for the money was presented.

It has been tentatively signed off on by the American Civil Liberties Union, whose objections led to July's court ruling preventing the construction of the senior village and whose prior approval was insisted upon by HUD before the plan would be considered.

The plan includes:

$1 million to fund construction of 10 affordable single-family or semi-detached houses at the Hollander Ridge site for former residents of the public housing project. The plan also calls for construction of an additional 42 nonsubsidized houses.

Most of the rest of the 60-acre site, at Interstate 95 and the county line near Rosedale, would be developed with 250,000 square feet of light industrial and warehouse space, which city officials say could generate 250 jobs.

$7.4 million toward the total rehabilitation of the 292-unit Claremont Homes public housing development about a mile west of Hollander Ridge. The total cost of the renovations of Claremont, including 68 units in such disrepair that they are vacant, is estimated at $31.3 million. Most of the rest of the money would come from state housing funds, tax-exempt bonds and the housing authority's annual capital improvement budget.

$11 million to fund at least 73 privately developed low-income units in new or renovated buildings in "dynamic growth areas" of the city.

The plan does not specify which neighborhoods would be included, and officials are working to identify them. It says the low-income units would account for no more than 20 percent of any project and says what it calls "inclusionary housing efforts" will be "consistent with citywide neighborhood revitalization efforts."

`Inclusionary' efforts

These "inclusionary housing efforts" would require a modification of a court decree designed to break up concentrations of poverty. That decree partially settled a civil rights lawsuit brought against HUD and the housing authority by the ACLU, which is why HUD insisted on the ACLU's approval.

Under the decree, the city is prohibited from using federal funds for new public housing units in areas where more than 26 percent of the people are minorities and more than 10 percent are poor, until it has met its obligations to provide opportunities for public housing residents to live in mostly white, middle-class neighborhoods throughout the area.

The new plan would allow the funding of units in areas that did not meet such strict criteria but have a good deal of private investment.

"If you have areas that are trending up, it makes sense to try to incorporate mixed-income housing," said Barbara A. Samuels, the ACLU's lead attorney in the case. "The intent is to piggyback onto areas where private development is already occurring."

Paul T. Graziano, city housing commissioner, praised the ACLU's "flexibility" in agreeing to modify the consent decree and said one of the virtues of the plan was developing an alternative to large-scale residential development of Hollander Ridge.

"The Hollander site is remote and not an ideal site for family public housing," he said.

Efforts to reach HUD officials for comment were unsuccessful.

Last week, city officials gave a briefing on the plan to U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Baltimore County Republican whose district includes Rosedale, which has had a contentious history with Hollander Ridge. Ehrlich is interested in helping the city retain the funds, an aide said, but has concerns about whether residential development would work at the isolated Hollander Ridge site and about the "vagueness" of the component for developing low-income units in areas of the city that are being revitalized.

Gary Adams, chairman of the Hillbrook-Camelot Improvement Association, said the communities across the county line have fought previous city ideas for that site and they'll fight this one.

County objections

"First of all, we don't want any of the former residents of Hollander Ridge back there. They weren't the nicest people," he said. "As for the mixed-use development, you can't mix market-rate housing with public or Section 8 housing because people don't want to live next to it, period. You end up with another slum. They don't get it. They just don't get it."

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling on an appeal brought by the ACLU, said in July that using federal funds to build a senior village violated the terms of the consent decree.

The 4th Circuit ruling reversed a decision by U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis that allowed the construction of senior housing at Hollander Ridge to proceed. It came four days after the demolition of Hollander Ridge, which was built in the mid-1970s and once had 1,000 units of elderly and family housing in a 19-story tower and 79 low-rise structures.

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