The crumbling, crime-ridden Kingsley Park apartments in Essex will be torn down and redeveloped if a deal between Baltimore County and the complex's owner is finalized this summer.
A similar deal fell through in August, but both sides said this agreement represents a drastic change in the years-long negotiations over the World War II-era complex, which sits in the middle of a rapidly revitalizing neighborhood near the head of Middle River.
The county has invested millions of dollars to buy and demolish other aging apartment complexes nearby, yielding a park and a new development of single-family homes and sparking a new sense of optimism on the east side.
"The residents of Kingsley Park are going to have a new and healthier living situation, and the community is going to have an opportunity for the redevelopment of that site," said Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. "I think that it's a major benefit for the renaissance of Essex/Middle River."
Under the deal, which requires final approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Baltimore County Council, the county would pay the property owner, Judith S. Siegel, $2.2 million as part of an agreement in which it would obtain ownership of the 18-acre property on Old Eastern Boulevard.
The county would also assume about $500,000 to $600,000 in back payments for utilities and other bills.
Managers notified the tenants in the 312 apartments Friday of a meeting today to discuss the changes. As part of the deal, the county would help relocate the 440 tenants, who all receive federal housing assistance.
The county spent nearly $30 million in the late 1990s to acquire and demolish the Village of Tall Trees apartment complex nearby to make way for a park. Across Eastern Avenue, the county tore down the Riverdale apartments after HUD donated most of the land, making way for a new single-family home development, WaterView, where houses are selling for more than $300,000.
But in the middle of that public investment, and millions more in private efforts, sits Kingsley Park, where tenants complained of missing apartment walls, rats, roaches, faulty heating and malfunctioning refrigerators and stoves. One tenant, Barbara Thomas, was knocked unconscious last summer when her ceiling collapsed.
Siegel's attorney, Leslie M. Pittler, said his client lost money on Kingsley Park for years because HUD prevented rent increases, meaning the income generated by the property was insufficient to cover maintenance.
Under the deal, Siegel would provide HUD the deed to the property in lieu of foreclosure. HUD would wipe out its $10 million lien on the property. In the process, the state's and county's liens would be absolved.
HUD would then sell the property to Baltimore County for $1, under the condition that the county redevelop it in accordance with the wishes of the department and former tenants and neighbors.
Over the summer, the county will hold public meetings in the area to solicit residents' opinions about what should become of the site. Two ideas HUD and community members have expressed are for low-income housing for the elderly and moderately priced single-family homes, said Permits and Development Management Director Timothy M. Kotroco.