State OKs funding for public housing

Board adds $797,000 to allow completion of New Bloomsbury Square

October 31, 2002|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

The state Board of Public Works approved yesterday spending almost $800,000 more than originally planned to complete the New Bloomsbury Square public housing project in Annapolis.

The board's approval, over the objections of Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, is expected to keep the long-awaited project on schedule and clear the way for a $30 million expansion of the General Assembly's Lowe House Office Building.

The state is building the 51-unit townhouse and apartment community so that it can demolish the old Bloomsbury Square, which is adjacent to the State House complex. Officials want to expand the legislative building on that site. The old Bloomsbury Square, built 61 years ago, is one of the oldest public housing projects in the nation.

Despite his complaints, Schaefer did not cast a "nay" vote when the measure was approved as part of a larger agenda.

The extra $797,423 approved by the board -- bringing the project's cost to $8.4 million -- results from a compromise between residents of the current Bloomsbury Square project and the construction company.

The state balked when A&R Development Corp. of Baltimore, which has begun building the project near the waterfront on St. John's Street, sought an additional $1.6 million to build the development according to the original plans.

Residents objected to proposals to cut back on some of the amenities the state and city had approved to persuade them to consent to be moved.

Eugene R. Lynch, deputy chief of staff to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, said the proposal approved yesterday was the result of negotiations among the involved parties.

Schaefer used the occasion to restate his opposition to building what he derided as "welfare houses" on prime waterfront real estate.

"You did everything you could to run the price up," Schaefer told Lynch. "You're really a generous guy with someone else's money."

Lynch told Schaefer that under federal rules, the residents could not be displaced unless they agreed to it. He said the state had been seeking to move Bloomsbury Square for about 20 years.

Schaefer pressed him on whether the state had pushed for an exception to the rule because of the potential value of the land adjacent to the current project.

"I did not and I would not," Lynch replied.

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