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Khalil Uqdah, left, and Larry Rosenberg of Cross Street Partners walk along the 800 block of Madeira St. in East Baltimore, where they are building a new development called Henderson Crossing.
Khalil Uqdah, left, and Larry Rosenberg of Cross Street Partners walk along the 800 block of Madeira St. in East Baltimore, where they are building a new development called Henderson Crossing. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

It takes a leap of faith to believe that 53 homes will be restored and rebuilt at the corner of East Madison and Madeira streets. The only thing supporting these vacant and battered two-story houses seems to be the trees embedded within the masonry. Their roofs have weathered away. Discarded mattresses litter nearby vacant lots.

In a few weeks construction is slated to begin at something called Henderson Crossing. The name derives from the neighborhood’s Elmer A. Henderson School. The crossing references the streets — Madeira and Madison streets and Patterson Park and Ashland avenues.

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Not far away is the granite St. Wenceslaus Church, where the hourly chime of the bells sounds a reminder of the age and durability of this East Baltimore community.

Speaking of continuity, when Henderson Crossing makes its debut next year, each restored home will receive a set of Baltimore white marble steps.

It has been more than 11 years since the bulldozers moved into this part of East Baltimore, north and east of the Johns Hopkins medical campus. Much was demolished, scattering the people living here. The construction of replacement housing was slowed by the 2008 recession.

Parts of the neighborhood were claimed for Hopkins’ physical expansion. Now, there’s a hotel, living quarters for graduate students, labs and a garage, as well as a new greensward, Eager Park.

The missing component is the concentrated housing with the kind of urban density that will make the neighborhood hum again. And while some housing has returned, there is room for more.

“This is an opportunity for new residents in the Hopkins community to walk to work. It’s only a couple of blocks away," said Cross Street Partners’ Khalil Uqdah, a member of the development team working to rebuild these blocks. “This is an area that had been disinvested for decades. Now is the time for new residential investment."

A collaboration of Cross Street Partners, City Life Historic Properties and Apex Building Group, a development company from New York City’s Harlem, acquired the vacant homes from Baltimore City.

The renovated homes will arrive on the market meeting the standards of the Maryland Historical Trust and the city’s Commission on Historic and Architectural Preservation. They’ll have wood windows and hardwood floors, granite counters and first-floor powder rooms. There is off-street parking.

Some of the narrow homes will be joined as pairs, accommodating a first-floor owners’ suite.

“This is an option so that that two or more generations of a family can live under one roof,” said Larry Rosenberg, also on the Cross Street team. “We used neighborhood focus groups to tell us what people wanted here.”

He notes that a 14-foot-wide home will sell for $259,000.

“Persons making 80% of the median income in this neighborhood will qualify to buy and pay $1,350 a month in a mortgage and tax payment,” he said. “It’s an amazing deal and an opportunity own a brand new home for less than the cost of rent.”

Added Uqdah: “We are are making Henderson Crossing deeply affordable with grants and subsidies through Baltimore City, the State of Maryland and the Hopkins Live Near Your Work program for its employees.”

Another major amenity, the developers say, is the physical proximity to the Henderson school, which is a Johns Hopkins partner.

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Peter Kannam, the school’s principal, said that his Henderson-Hopkins was one of the most improved schools in Baltimore last year.

“We are excited to be an anchor for a community that is rapidly improving,” Kannam said. “Henderson Crossing is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, transforming blighted, vacant homes that our students walk by every day into a vibrant community of town homes and flats.”

He also said students who live nearby will get priority admission.

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