Developer chosen in Guilford project

Shelter Group to remake 28-year-old housing complex

April 18, 2008|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun reporter

Shelter Group of Baltimore has been selected to redevelop the 100-unit Guilford Gardens public housing complex on Oakland Mills Road in east Columbia.

Shelter, which owns and manages about 1,000 housing units in Howard County, beat out three other development teams vying for the $46 million project. The plan is to transform the 28-year old community, razing the buildings in stages and creating a mixed-income neighborhood adorned with a swimming pool, community center, walking paths and a broad village green commons.

"We are so delighted," said Maria Miller, Shelter's development director. Barring unforeseen delays, she said construction could begin next year and the first residents could move into new units in 2010.

The mixed-income concept can work, she said, and Guilford Gardens is a good place for it.

"There's a long legacy in Columbia of being intentional about having mixed uses and mixed incomes," she said.

County housing officials say this kind of project allows profits from the market rate units to provide a cash reserve that can be used for maintenance and renovations in decades to come. It also fits County Executive Ken Ulman's priority of having mixed-income housing rather than segregating subsidized housing in one spot.

"It's really critical that we do this first one right to improve the way people think of work force housing. We want it to be a showplace," Ulman said.

Howard housing director, Stacy L. Spann, said that Shelter, which proposed 270 new rental units, including a mid-rise building for seniors, won approval from an internal review team, from residents at Guilford Gardens and finally from Ulman.

"All those folks submitted very strong concept proposals. In this case, the panel and the community both agreed that Shelter's was the strongest overall," Spann said. The other developers were Earl Armiger's Orchard Development, Sustainable Community Partners, which included Enterprise Homes and Community Builders Inc.

Spann added: "People really liked [Shelter's] open floor plans. They used the property very well." He noted that Shelter's plan even proposed placing a gazebo on what would otherwise be a storm water management pond, transforming a potential eyesore into an amenity.

Miller told Guilford residents at a March 31 presentation of all four proposals that 224 of the new units would be garden apartments and 46 would be for seniors. None would be townhouses, a disappointment to several residents. About 40 percent, or 108 of the homes, would be for low-income residents. No current residents would be displaced by the project, moving in stages from existing homes into new ones as the phased project progresses.

The units would range in size from 618 square feet for a one-bedroom to 1,430 square feet for a four-bedroom.

larry.carson@baltsun.com

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