Kingsley Park

October 19, 2003

FEDERAL INSPECTORS who recently have descended on a rundown Essex low-income apartment complex saw the obvious: Kingsley Park, which dates back to the 1940s, needs to be torn down and rebuilt.

The development's owners, Landex Corp., and Baltimore County agree. But they are so busy blaming one another for Kingsley Park's current and past troubles they cannot figure out how to get rid of the eyesore, which is a hub for drugs and other illegal activity. They need a referee.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski -- who has called on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to rigorously monitor Kingsley Park and who was instrumental in persuading inspectors to investigate complaints about the development -- is tailor-made for that role. She ought to go a step further and broker a meeting among HUD, Landex and Baltimore County and make sure that a reconstruction plan and timetable emerge.

Sen. Mikulski's powers of persuasion are considerable because her subcommittee has a hand in approving HUD's budget. She also has clout in the county administrative offices in Towson.

Baltimore County officials accuse Landex of bad faith -- and perhaps with some justification. But no amount of vilification can deny the firm's considerable expertise in rebuilding communities. A local example is Broadway Overlook, which the firm is building on the site of the former Church Home and Hospital near the Johns Hopkins medical campus. That village -- a mix of owner-occupied units, market-rate rentals and subsidized rental apartments -- has won plaudits for its innovative design.

The same architects, Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh, have prepared a revitalization plan for Kingsley Park. It, too, would become a mixed-income development that combines homeowners with renters. Instead of the current 312 units, it would have perhaps 200, and some of the existing brick buildings would be rehabilitated. This seems like a desirable plan that should move ahead without foot-dragging.

Kingsley Park's 12-acre site at Back River Neck Road and Old Eastern Avenue is a gateway to a shoreline that is undergoing a transformation. As old World War II-vintage apartment complexes are torn down, waterview condominiums and marinas replace them.

A rebuilt Kingsley Park would go nicely with that facelift. Senator Mikulski ought to use her influence to its fullest extent to expedite it.

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