Improvements are coming next year to the Aigburth Vale Senior Community, an affordable housing complex for seniors in Towson, located near Towson High School.
Both the facility's historic mansion, built in 1868, and a new building, added in 2000, will be upgraded as part of a roughly $1.6 million renovation, to begin in January. When affordable housing nonprofit St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center Inc. and partners bought the property from Baltimore County in 1999, some renovations were made to the historic building, which includes six housing units, and the second building, with 64 units, was constructed.
More than 16 years later, it is time for improvements to both structures, according to Bill Rubin, rental services director for St. Ambrose, which manages the property.
To pay for the improvements St. Ambrose hopes to use a state grant of more than $500,000 to cover energy-efficient upgrades, while a loan through the Federal Housing Administration will help pay for other items, such as repairing porches and roofs.
The $518,000 grant from the state's Department of Housing and Community Development has been committed through a letter of reservation, but not awarded yet, Rubin said, adding that the loan from the Federal Housing Administration should be finalized mid-December. The group hopes to start work in January, and anticipates the work will take about nine months.
The mission of St. Ambrose is to provide affordable housing, Rubin said.
"I think we're excited about all of it," Rubin said. "It will enable us to preserve much-needed high-quality affordable housing for the long term."
County Councilman David Marks visited the site Oct. 12 to talk with St. Ambrose officials about the project. The property is being considered for the state's Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, which requires county authorization, for which St. Ambrose would receive a tax break for completing the renovation work, Marks said.
In an Oct. 17 interview, Marks called the renovation plan "terrific."
"This is the perfect example of a historic property being used correctly in a way that enhances the neighborhood," he added.
The facility's 70 units are reserved for seniors 62 and older and are allocated based on the percentage of the area's median income an individual makes. The median income for the Baltimore region, which includes Baltimore City and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford, Howard and Queen Anne's counties, is $86,700 according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. About four percent of units at Aigburth are reserved for people who make 30 percent or less of that median income, while 55 percent are reserved for people who make 50 percent or less, and the remaining 41 percent are for people who make 60 percent or less.
Improvements to both structures will include roof repair, heating and air conditioning system replacement, new hot water heaters, elevator upgrades, painting and new flooring.
St. Ambrose will also replace some shingles and upgrade the porches on the historic mansion, which is on the county's historic landmarks list. Aigburth Vale is also on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Rubin.
Aigburth Vale, as the building is now called, was once a part of the nearly 300-acre estate of actor John Owens. Owens purchased the farm property in 1853 and renamed it Aigburth Vale after Aigburth, the area of England in which he was born.
Rubin said St. Ambrose has spoken with officials of the Maryland Historical Trust, a state agency dedicated to preserving Maryland's history, which was necessary because the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, he said. He said the trust has approved St. Ambrose's plans.
Officials of the trust could not immediately be reached for comment.
Porches will also be updated on the newer building, which has an exercise room but no equipment, Rubin said, adding that equipment appropriate for seniors will be added as part of the renovation. Solar panels are also being added to the roof of the new building to make it more energy efficient, while old furniture in common areas will be replaced and old refrigerators will be replaced with more efficient appliances. New insulation will be installed in the buildings and a garden will be added to the property.
Rubin said residents will remain in the building while it is being renovated. Two vacant units are available to move residents to as work is being completed in their units.