Public housing becoming homes

Today is move-in day for Bloomsbury Square

Disputes, lawsuit caused delays

Annapolis

November 03, 2003|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

The long-delayed, new Bloomsbury Square public housing development in downtown Annapolis is scheduled to make the final transformation from a construction project to a real community today, as residents begin moving into the townhouses overlooking College Creek.

Residents were supposed to occupy the 51-unit project - a joint effort of state, the housing authority of Annapolis and the city - last spring. But the move-in date has been pushed back numerous times because of last-minute delays, contentious negotiations and a lawsuit.

The setbacks were so exasperating that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. labeled the project an example of "what not to do" during a tense public meeting last month.

The final paperwork was completed late last week. The state was responsible for developing the project and now will transfer it to the housing authority, which will administer it.

The authority then will give the state the current Bloomsbury Square, which is wedged between the new development and legislative offices. The site will be turned into parking and office space for legislators and state staff.

At a housing authority meeting last week, the board broke into applause when its attorney announced the deal had been completed.

"Let's move them in," said Trudy McFall, the board's chairwoman.

The project encountered problems almost from the beginning. Contractors broke ground without a finalized contract nearly two years ago.

Developers threatened to stop construction this summer over a contract dispute and filed a lawsuit against the state and housing authority in the fall.

At public meetings, state and housing officials blamed each other for delays.

At one point, a state official threatened to sell the townhouses, which many believe could fetch $400,000 in the open market.

The process was draining for residents and officials.

The housing authority is not planning a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony - "I don't have the heart for that," McFall said - and will probably have a low-key "housewarming party" around Thanksgiving.

"I'll bring the beer and wine," joked board member Howard Pinsky.

Residents said they were discouraged by the delays.

Many had been packed since July, when they received letters telling them they could move into their new homes.

"It's been frustrating," said resident Horace Byrd last week. "It'll be nice once we get inside."

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