More Reservoir Hill renovations set

Affordable housing is goal of `Renaissance' project

June 30, 2005|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

City officials will announce plans today to renovate dozens of Reservoir Hill's vacant or rundown city-owned properties for mixed-income housing.

The city has selected Pennrose Properties Inc. to redevelop 76 apartments or homes in the increasingly popular neighborhood. About half of the units in some 31 rowhouses or buildings are vacant; the rest are occupied by public housing tenants.

Pennrose, a national developer of mixed-use, mixed-income housing, and partners will invest $12 million in the project.

Of the 76 units, 40 will be available for public housing tenants, and 24 will be subsidized for working families. Twelve single-family rowhouses will be sold, including eight at market rate, with the profits used to subsidize four homes that will be sold at affordable rates to low-income working families, said Chris Shea, the city's associate deputy director of public housing development.

The project, dubbed The Renaissance at Reservoir Hill, comes on the heels of several other city initiatives to spur the comeback of the once stately neighborhood. The city and community leaders are trying to redevelop about 300 homes.

"Reservoir Hill is one of those neighborhoods that's undergoing enormous market pressure, and in that context what we want to do is preserve an affordable housing component so people aren't gentrified out of the neighborhood," Shea said.

Philadelphia-based Pennrose will be the project's managing general partner, in a partnership with the city and private tax credit equity investors. The developer has worked in Reservoir Hill before, renovating the Chateau apartment building on Druid Park Lake Drive with developer CIMG LLC in 2001. Overall, Pennrose has developed 8,000 housing units, which it owns and manages.

"This is a great model for ways in which we can infuse our scattered-site public housing with new resources, so it's not a blight," said Paul T. Graziano, city housing commissioner.

The city recently awarded two long-vacant parcels along Druid Park Lake Drive, across from Druid Hill Park, to CIMG, which plans to build about 170 market-rate condominiums with estimated prices of up to $320,000. Other homes that are vacant or have been abandoned have been acquired by the city and offered for redevelopment as part of the city's Project 5000 housing program.

"We are a neighborhood that's in the midst of change, a neighborhood that's certainly rebounding and that appears to be rounding the corner," said John Ruffin, executive director of the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, an umbrella organization that will work with Pennrose on management issues involving tenants. "Prices are moving upward, and that makes long-term homeowners very happy."

"It's very significant that all of those scattered-site units will be brought up to the same level and standard of maintenance that others are being rehabilitated to," Ruffin said. "They aren't at the level of some of the more recent rehabs."

While Pennrose will own the units, the community group will maintain a small stake in the homes through "sweat equity," Ruffin said.

"We'll work with the management on an ongoing basis in terms of recruiting tenants and working with them to strengthen the liaison between tenants and management," Ruffin said. "As it is, we don't have much say in how those properties are managed and operated."

Pennrose has obtained federal low-income housing tax credits, administered by the state Department of Housing and Community Development. The state housing agency has also made a $3.26 million loan from its partnership rental housing program funds to Reservoir Hill Housing LLC, a partnership of Pennrose and the city Housing Authority.

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