Yorkway area pleased complex will be razed

Deals announced to buy 24 buildings in Dundalk

March 28, 2006|By LAURA BARNHARDT | LAURA BARNHARDT,SUN REPORTER

Catherine Kates meant it this time. She was going to put up the "for sale" sign.

She'd had it with picking up the crack pipes and liquor bottles littering her yard. She'd been mugged twice. And although she had bought her Dundalk rowhouse 12 years ago with visions of backyard barbecues and evenings on the front porch, Kates said she never felt safe enough to do either.

Then, she got the news.

Upon hearing that Baltimore County intended to buy the crime-ridden apartments on the other side of Yorkway to make way for new development, Kates said she literally cried for joy.

"I won't have to sell my house," said Kates, 54, who works in the investments division of the state's Department of Business and Economic Development. "It took a lot of people pulling together."

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. formally announced yesterday the details of the $7.5 million deal to buy the 20 apartment buildings that make up York Park Apartments, with the intention of knocking them to the ground. Smith also said the county has reached an agreement with the owner of four other buildings in the Yorkway corridor to buy them for $800,000, and will try to buy the remaining buildings in an 8-acre area.

"We will acquire all 56 buildings on Yorkway," Smith said at a morning news conference at Veterans Park attended by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., first lady Kendel Ehrlich, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and other local officials. Smith said that when the apartment buildings come down, "a wonderful new community will be born."

Both deals must be approved by the County Council, which is set to discuss the purchases at its work session today and to vote on them Monday.

As part of the purchase agreement for the York Park Apartments, the state will forgive a $1.9 million loan. The county will assume the debt of a $2.47 million federal loan and forgive a $672,000 loan it made to the owner. The cash portion of the settlement includes nearly $2.3 million and up to $158,000 in expenses, officials said.

An official with Landex Corp., a general partner of York Park Associates LP - which, according to the county, owns the 79-unit York Park complex - could not be reached for comment.

David Jankowiak, who owns four of the nearby apartment buildings with his wife, Anita, said they will be glad to sell the properties. "You can't get any decent tenants," he said. "It's just a hassle."

He said he had been approached several times over the past six years by developers interested in buying all of the apartment buildings in the Yorkway corridor but could never get all of the owners to sell.

There are 18 other owners of the World War II-era buildings north of Dundalk Elementary and Middle schools, according to county officials.

Redeveloping the Yorkway corridor had been a priority for Ruppersberger while he was Baltimore County's executive and has long been a goal for County Councilman John Olszewski Sr.

"This feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming," said Olszewski, who led the Dundalk High School band down Commerce Street for the announcement. "Never before have we had such positive things happening in Dundalk."

County officials said they plan to set up a relocation office to help Yorkway tenants, many of whom receive government rental assistance.

Yorkway resident Julie Harrison said she worried about finding a new apartment. "People live here to better themselves," said Harrison, 24, who has a 6-year-old son and attends classes at the Community College of Baltimore County's Dundalk campus nearby. "I'm fortunate that the government has given me this opportunity to better myself. But they're going to be snatching that from me."

Still, Kates, the woman who lives across the street, said she's already looking forward to buying a grill and a glider so she can sit outside with her grandchildren.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

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