"If you've been by the properties, you know they're bricked up," Day said. "I think it's safe to say they're gut rehabs."

One of the houses survived a fire about five years ago, Day said.

And at least one of the houses has a collapsed roof, said Armstrong, who attended the conference.

The city issued its Request for Proposals in December, and is offering the nine houses in the 2800 block of Remington Avenue "as a bundle," Day said.

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The houses were previously owned by the Baltimore Housing Authority and were turned over to the Housing Department for rehabbing under the Vacants to Value program.

Also attending the conference was City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who introduced a bill Jan. 9 to change the zoning for the block from B3, a commercial zone, to R7, residential.

Clarke said the B3 zoning designation was an error by the city and that none of the houses have ever been used commercially.

Day said the city is offering financial incentives to city employees, first-time home buyers and employees of Hopkins, whose Homewood campus is nearby.

Also nearby is the site of the planned 25th Street Station shopping center, to be anchored by Wal-Mart.

"Remington is getting a lot of interest with the $70 million development coming," Greater Remington Improvement Association President Judith Kunst said in December as the city was preparing the RFP. "We are happening."

Kunst also attended the prebid conference last week.

"I think it's a strong community," Day told the audience.

Potential bidders have until Feb. 17 at noon to make written proposals. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for March 7. A city selection panel is scheduled to meet March 14 and to award the contract March 21.

Day said proposals will be judged partly on the capacity and experience of the developer, as well as on the overall feasibility of the proposal and its potential benefits to the city.

"If you want a third-floor master suite with a spa, have it," Day said. "That's not the way it looks now."

Rain didn't dampen the enthusiasm of people who had a look around during the open house. McCarthy of Episcopal Housing Services was there with a team of people that included an architect and several real estate agents.

Alicia Corson, of Towson-based PenCor Propertie, looked past the debris inside and the lack of electricity inside several houses, and said they seem structurally sound.

"I think bricking them up is actually better" for preserving them," Corson said.

No one was happier to see the visitors than Delores Aye, 48, a single mother of four children, two of them still living at home in one of the block's few occupied rowhouses, with a vase of flowers in the front window. Aye said she was surprised but happy to see a city sign posted on the vacant house next to hers, announcing the proposal to change the zoning from business to residential.

Aye, who lives across the street from Anderson Body Shop, described the neighborhood as nice and quiet, and said she would look forrward to more neighbors — "as long as we don't have the wrong type of people moving into the neighborhood."