Three developers stress experience to convert Uplands Apartments site

November 15, 2006|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,sun reporter

Executives at three development companies vying to transform a vacant Southwest Baltimore apartment complex into mixed-income housing yesterday promoted their experience with such projects in distressed neighborhoods across the country.

Before an audience of about 30 in the auditorium at Edmondson High School, development executives highlighted their past projects in cities such as Washington, Pittsburgh and Charlotte, N.C., where low-income residents live alongside homeowners.

The presentations were part of the process to select the company that will develop the 130-acre site of the Uplands Apartments. A review team of city officials will recommend a developer to city Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano by Dec. 1.

"We're looking for a team that has the vision, the financial capacity, the expertise, the experience of developing something of this magnitude," Graziano said.

The city plans to raze the Uplands building to make room for a $300 million development with about 1,100 housing units - a mix of apartments, condominiums and single-family homes, which are expected to sell for as much as $300,000.

About 350 units have been designated as affordable housing in an agreement between city officials, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Legal Aid Society, which had argued in a federal lawsuit against demolition in protest over a lack of affordable housing.

In 2004, city officials reached a relocation agreement with the 7,000-member New Psalmist Baptist Church that borders the Uplands site. The city has paid $7.1 million - of an expected $14.2 million - to compensate the church for moving to a city-owned Northwest Baltimore site.

Last night, developers did not offer specific plans, but all vowed to seek input from community members.

Richard D. Baron, chairman and chief executive officer at St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar, said his company's strategy is to improve education and retail in the area. He pointed to his company's redevelopment of a former public housing building in a Pittsburgh neighborhood, which is now home to a Whole Foods supermarket and a Home Depot.

"It's a real opportunity to change the economic climate in the Uplands area," Baron said.

Representatives from Uplands Revitalization LLC - made up of Bank of America Community Development Corp., Bozzuto Group, Blair McDaniels LLC and Phoenix Development Partners - stressed its local roots and pointed to projects it had completed in the local region, including restoration of the Hippodrome and the creation of mixed-income housing in southeast Washington.

Similarly, Uplands Visionaries - Pennrose Properties, EYA, Uplands Partners, the Cryor Group and former Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry - noted its projects in Hagerstown, Rockville and rivitalizing downtown Silver

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