Annapolis mayor criticizes developer for plan to cut costs

Moyer says A&R must justify need for changes to housing complex

August 16, 2002|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer blasted a developer for trying to scale back the New Bloomsbury Square public housing complex, saying yesterday that company officials need to fully justify the need for $1.6 million in savings.

Outraged that the developer of the $7.6 million state-funded waterfront project blamed city input for delays and some of the projected cost overruns, Moyer said she would not recommend waiving $235,000 in city utility hook-up fees until she is satisfied with the company's answers.

"I think they have an obligation to everyone to show what in the name of Pete they based everything on," Moyer said. "Here is the developer of a project making the city the villain for enforcing quality. It is beyond my comprehension."

State officials said yesterday that representatives from the city, state, Annapolis Housing Authority and Bloomsbury's tenants association would meet again next week to evaluate proposed cuts.

The developer, A&R Development Corp. of Baltimore, met with tenants Tuesday to discuss possible changes to their new homes, saying that higher-than-anticipated bids from subcontractors, problems with the site and city requests pushed the project over budget and one to two months behind schedule.

Under the deal, the state is paying to build the new townhouse and apartment complex on a former parking lot along Bladen Street and College Creek. It will replace 51 public housing units that will be demolished for a $30 million expansion of the Lowe House Office Building.

The plan finalized in March followed months of negotiations. The city was not brought in until the final months, when Annapolis planners suggested major revisions to conform to the historic district and follow environmental regulations.

With all-brick, larger homes offered to residents, the deal was expected to end a 30-year stalemate with the state over the 61-year-old Bloomsbury Square complex, which abuts state offices and has been eyed for years for state expansion.

Not finalized

Moyer's stinging criticism revealed cracks in the partnership that was lauded less than three months ago by the governor and other officials for coming up with a model public housing plan.

The developer has done grading, utility and foundation work on the property even though its contract with the Annapolis Housing Authority awaits approval from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Anthony T. Rodgers, the company's development manager, said A&R needs to cut expenses on the project or get more funding before it will finalize the agreement and proceed. The project will be supervised by the state Department of General Services and, when completed, turned over to the housing authority.

Overruns

Rodgers said the company would share financial information with the city and the other involved parties if requested by the state. He said the project included a 10 percent fee to cover the company's costs and profit, but it had been erased by overruns.

"I have cut my fees twice," he said. "At some point, I need other stakeholders to step in and share this."

But at Tuesday's meeting with the developer, residents refused to approve some of the proposed cost-saving moves - including replacing hardwood floors with carpeting and putting wood siding on the backs of what were to be all-brick units.

Instead, they also requested financial information to show the changes were necessary, said Janet LaBella, the tenants' Legal Aid attorney.

"We have asked for a detailed explanation of what caused the cost overrun," LaBella said.

Dave Humphrey, spokesman for the state Department of General Services, said his department is reviewing the developer's cost estimates, but added, "We believe them to be accurate."

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