For eager residents, the long wait is over

Home: After months of delays, Bloomsbury Square tenants are finally moving out of run-down old apartments into new Annapolis townhouses.

November 04, 2003|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Keyanna Singleton spent most of yesterday morning shyly gripping her mother's leg as movers unloaded box after box into her family's townhouse in the new Bloomsbury Square housing community in downtown Annapolis.

But then she loosened her grip and ran toward one of the gleaming white columns near her new front door and wrapped her arms around it as far as they would go.

"I love this house," proclaimed the 4-year-old girl, whose family had been waiting for almost nine months to move into their new home overlooking College Creek.

FOR THE RECORD - Because of incorrect information provided by the Annapolis Police Department, an article in The Sun yesterday misidentified a woman who was found dead in the Bloomsbury Square housing community Monday morning and gave an incorrect age. Her name was Dorothy Harris, not Portay Harris. She was 80.

Yesterday was the end of a long emotional roller coaster for Bloomsbury residents, many of whom were ecstatic nearly two years ago when it was announced they would get new waterfront homes to replace their dilapidated old apartments next door and could move in as soon as last spring.

But many slowly became disillusioned as the project bogged down in political infighting and the move-in date got pushed back further and further.

The residents' frustration was increased because they all lived in the old Bloomsbury Square, a collection of run-down buildings less than 100 yards from their pristine new homes. Many walked past their new townhouses every day.

"We deserve this place after all we've been through," said Keyanna's mother, Kristy Stewart, who acknowledged that she sneaked into several of the homes during the past few months to see what they were like.

The project is on one of the most desirable remaining sites in Annapolis - the townhouses could fetch up to $400,000 in the open market, private real estate experts have said.

The state developed the project and gave it to the housing authority, which will oversee it. The authority then gave the state the old Bloomsbury Square site. The state plans to raze the buildings and build offices and parking space for legislators and state staff.

Even though the townhouses were mostly finished by the summer - residents even received notice in July from the state that they could move in - the project suffered last-minute setbacks, including threats by a state official to sell the properties and a lawsuit by the contractor against the state and housing authority over a contract dispute.

The process was so draining that the housing authority decided not to have an opening ceremony yesterday - a stark contrast to the gala groundbreaking ceremony nearly two years ago.

But residents who moved in yesterday didn't need a formal ceremony to be happy.

Kristy Stewart had put most of her family's belongings in boxes in July, but she still had two rooms to pack Sunday morning. She fell asleep at 2 a.m. and woke up four hours later.

"I was so excited," said Stewart, a past president of the Bloomsbury Square tenants council, a group that met with state and housing authority officials during negotiations.

Yesterday, Stewart watched as movers hired by the housing authority unloaded boxes from her old two-bedroom townhouse. The living room had a large bulge in the center of the floor - jokingly referred to as the "mountain" - and the unit's front door had a large plywood patch over it to cover a hole a thief made in August.

The new three-bedroom home was light and airy, complete with a brass mailbox and a washer and dryer. When Stewart saw a spider crawling up one of her gleaming new white walls, she shrieked and ran to get some toilet paper to kill it. But she was careful to knock the spider to the floor, where it wouldn't stain, before squishing it.

"Everything's so nice here," she said.

Keyanna put on a blue pointed hat and ran through the house yesterday, peeking into every room. She wandered into her mother's walk-in closet and pirouetted.

"Do you want to see my room?" she asked, leading a visitor down the hallway. "Isn't it nice?" she said, standing proudly next to her twin bed and boxes of toys.

The girl knew that she was supposed to move into a new home this summer but took each delay in stride, her mother said. "She's used to setbacks," said Stewart, who works as an office manager at a driving school.

As her daughter ran around the house, Stewart smiled. "I think it's finally set in for her. She's going to have a lot of room."

Other families also were admiring their new homes. Hallie Lowe was assigned a home with a view of College Creek, and the 44-year-old spent much of her day walking from window to window.

"I always dreamt that I was going to have a view of the water, and now I can," said Lowe, who was moving into a three-bedroom apartment with her two sons.

The only dark cloud yesterday came when a longtime resident, whom Annapolis police identified as Portay Harris, 81, was found dead in her townhouse. She had packed her belongings in preparation for her move, relatives and friends say. Police said they believe Harris died of natural causes.

Residents are scheduled to move into their townhouses during the next three days. Horace Byrd sat on the front steps of his old apartment yesterday, enviously watching movers load furniture into vans. Byrd isn't scheduled to move into his home until tomorrow. "I can't hardly wait," he said.

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