By Larry Perl, firstname.lastname@example.org
11:21 AM EDT, September 18, 2012
An affordable-housing developer's ongoing efforts to keep teachers from leaving Baltimore reached a new milestone Sunday, Sept. 16, as Sean Flanigan, 36, proudly showed off a vacant, rundown row house in Remington.
The now-gutted house will be fixed up by Christmas, and Flanigan, a single dad, will be calling it home.
The house at 307 Lorraine Ave. is being rehabbed by Seawall Development Co., which is best known for redeveloping nearby Miller's Court and Union Mill in Hampden as affordable apartments for teachers and office space for nonprofits.
But earlier this year, after some of its teacher tenants inquired about home ownership in the area, Seawall embarked on a new, related project called Miller's Square, to gut, rehab and sell abandoned houses near Miller's Court. The houses will sell for $150,000 to $200,000 and are laden with financial incentives for young teachers and police officers.
"Our job is to attract and also retain teachers in the city. But we never thought we'd be providing them with houses," said Jon Constable, Seawall's project manager.
"I'm the first full gut-rehab to go in," said Flanigan, who heads the English department at Loyola-Blakefield High School.
Another teacher, Abby Weeks, already lives at the end of the street, but that was mostly a remodeling job, said Michael Levine, Flanigan's real estate agent.
The row house at 309 Lorraine Ave. next door to Flanigan's is also on the market, and a teacher at Bryn Mawr School is negotiating with Seawall to buy it, said Levine, who also represents that buyer.
As part of the new Miller's Square project, Seawall officials are trying to sell or rent 30 houses in Remington by 2013, a timetable the company has dubbed "30 X 13."
Seawall officials will give an update on the Miller's Square project during an open house Sept. 23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 2635 N. Howard St., where one of the already rehabbed rental houses is located.
In March, Seawall, which is based at Miller's Court, won a bidding process to rehab nine city-owned houses in the 2800 block of Remington Avenue, through the city's Vacants to Value program.
Seawall, headed by Donald Manekin, his son, Thibault Manekin, and partner Evan Morville, has also privately purchased or is negotiating to buy at least 17 row houses from their owners or at auction. Those properties are on Howard Street, Remington Avenue, Lorraine Avenue and West 26th and 27th streets. Seven of them are on Lorraine, around the corner from Miller's Court.
Manekin said selling houses to teachers is a natural outgrowth of the rental projects at Union Mill and Miller's Court — and a way for Seawall to be more closely connected to the community.
"What we didn't want to do is be a one-off developer," Manekin said. "We really wanted to be seen as neighbors, not guests."
Flanigan, who currently rents a 1-bedroom apartment at Union Mill for $950 per month, was excited as he and Levine toured 307 Lorraine Ave. with a contractor, Charlie Chiampou, of Charles Village-based CW Design Build.
The two-story, two-bedroom, two-bathroom house, built in 1914, will feature exposed brick walls, two separate skylights, a full basement, a 10-foot-by-6-foot window in the master bedroom, and built-in bookcases and closets. Flanigan's daughter, Ania, 14, a Baltimore School for the Arts student, will have her own bedroom when she stays with him.
Flanigan is also excited about the financial incentives he's getting from Seawall, the city government and other groups, including Live Baltimore and Healthy Neighborhoods.
Those incentives include a base loan of $150,000 from M&T Bank, backed by Seawall, with a 4-percent interest rate and no mortgage insurance; a $10,000 Healthy Neighborhoods grant, a $10,000 city Vacants to Value booster grant; and a $5,000 Live Baltimore grant administered by CHAI, Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. Seawall also pays for interior design work by Trace Architects in Charles Village, and for work by Chiampou, the contractor.
The grants come with some red tape. Flanigan must live in the house for at least five years, get home ownership counseling through CHAI, and spend $20,000 on renovations to get the $10,000 grant from Healthy Neighborhoods.
"There are many moving parts," Flanigan said. He said he is using a real estate agent because the deal is "so pioneering."
"It's a bit of a scavenger hunt," said Constable, the project manager. "My job is to help (buyers) connect the dots so we don't leave any money on the table."
But Flanigan, who sees himself as a housing pioneer, is also excited about Seawall's effort to give teachers like him a reason to stay in Baltimore rather than live in Baltimore County with its lower tax rate.
"It's a real revitalization of the city," Flanigan said. "That's why I'm doing this, because Seawall is backing this whole deal."
Other teachers in the home ownership program agree.
"For me, it was about being part of the community," said Weeks, 32, who lives down the street and teaches at the Afya public charter school in Belair-Edison.
"Remington is really becoming a nicer place," said Eric Elton, 29, the Bryn Mawr science teacher who is negotiating to buy the house next door to Flanigan's. "It's close to work — and they have a lot of really good grants."
Flanigan, mindful that Union Mill, like Miller's Court, has a long waiting list for apartments, sees one other big advantage to home ownership.
"It allows another teacher to take over my apartment," he said.