Annapolis unveils housing plan

Affordable homes promised after razing

January 20, 2007|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

One of Annapolis' oldest public housing communities will be razed and rebuilt as part of a plan to increase the stock of affordable housing downtown while also creating the city's first public senior housing, officials announced yesterday.

The housing authority also plans to refurbish another aging complex and build a larger recreational center, while adding parking and open space.

The announcement caps nine months of sometimes rancorous debate between housing tenants and agency officials about the two properties, Obery Court, built in 1952, and College Creek Terrace, which opened in 1946.

The two complexes are home to about 300 low-income residents, some of whom questioned whether their homes would be replaced.

"Affordable housing is too precious to allow it to go out of inventory," said Trudy McFall, chairwoman of the authority's board of commissioners. "This plan is quite a good head start; ... we will refine it."

Under the plan, Obery Court, a wood-frame complex of 56 garden-style apartments -- half of them on three acres of waterfront -- would be torn down and replaced with a park, community garden and an undetermined number of new apartments and townhouses.

Officials said that up to 60 units would be set aside for seniors.

College Creek Terrace, which has 108 units, will be refurbished.

The properties will be managed by a private firm hired by the housing authority, officials said.

Up to 51 townhouses could be available for purchase at below-market rates, and about 20 percent of current residents would be eligible to buy one, authority officials said.

A preliminary report estimated the projects would cost at least $7 million. Officials said residents would be relocated in other public housing complexes or given Section 8 vouchers during the redevelopment, which will likely happen in two phases.

Robert H. Eades, who was co-chairman of the revitalization committee, voted for the plan, but expressed some reservations about the new direction.

"We got the best deal we could get, but we could have gotten a little better deal, if the people had gotten involved," said Eades. "I still feel there is going to be a major change, and I see gentrification, because they want to create a new downtown."

Change, some residents said, wouldn't be a bad thing.

Vincent Smith, who has lived in Obery Court for four years, said that crime is rampant and that many older residents are afraid to walk around the neighborhood.

"They should tear it down. They have to do what they have to do to make it better," he said. "You got good people who live here and we want to live decent."

nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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