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Baltimore City

Intergenerational, affordable housing slated for Baltimore’s Park Heights neighborhood

Construction has begun on Woodland Gardens, a new affordable housing project in Park Heights. The first building in the project by CHAI Housing is well underway with another one just beginning.

Ground was broken recently for a new $45 million investment in central Park Heights, the Northwest Baltimore neighborhood perhaps best known for its adjacency to Pimlico Race Course.

Over the years, the Park Heights community has experienced wholesale physical change. Block after block of aging rowhomes, many constructed before World War I, have been demolished. Sections of Virginia, Delaware, Woodland and Homer avenues are simply not there.

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Over time, the homes served a broad demographic spectrum. It’s been a neighborhood of Catholic parishes, Jewish temples and African American congregations.

Once densely populated, Park Heights shrunk as families moved on to roomier locations in Baltimore County. As they departed, vacant homes became commonplace.

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After years of concerted demolition, Park Heights now opens up at Virginia Avenue. What were once corner stores and front porches is now a yawning space, an empty urban canvas with a scattering of mature backyard trees, lamp posts and crumbling sidewalks.

But that is beginning to change. A new group, the Northwest Baltimore Partnership, has assumed a leadership role here. Other groups are also players and components of what promises to be a new version of an old neighborhood.

“We visited the area before work started on our project and then came back after it had been cleared,” said Lisa K. Budlow, the chief executive officer of CHAI, or Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc.

“The spot is now inspiring. It revealed the potential. It is paving the way and makes you see how it will establish a new community,” she continued. “One building will not do it and it is important when the neighborhood stakeholders are organized and the community is ready.”

Budlow and Ellen Jarrett, CHAI’s vice president for housing, planning and development, are leading a project named Woodland Gardens I and II. It draws its name from Woodland Avenue and the notion it will be part of a landscaped campus designed around an inter-generational population mix.

This new venture is being built in stages — the senior living building is nearing completion and workers are just starting a separate structure for families.

Some 64 1910-vintage homes once stood here.

Construction has begun on Woodland Gardens, a new affordable housing project in Park Heights. The first building in the project by CHAI Housing is well underway with another one just beginning.

CHAI is associated with Baltimore’s Jewish community and an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

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“This is a new opportunity for us — to dig into what it takes to build a new, inter-generation community,” said Budlow. " We look at it as a new campus for the neighborhood.”

When completed, this new neighborhood within a neighborhood will house 138 apartments, with 75 units designated for seniors and 63 units for families. All the rents are in the affordable category, generally a percentage of household income.

“We are working closely with the Northwest Baltimore Partnership,” said Budlow. “We don’t do anything alone.”

CHAI’s leaders decided more than 15 years ago to extend beyond its traditional service area in Upper Park Heights and on the Sinai Hospital campus.

“The entire Park Heights is significant to CHAI because of its strong Jewish roots,” Budlow said. “It is important to us to be a strong community partner.”

“We are emphasizing quality housing and affordable housing for a family to live in Park Heights,” Jarrett said. “People are often paying too much for neglected housing that needs repairs. We are offering new, excellent, high standards of living.”

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Earlier this week construction workers spread hay on the cleared ground. This was the first step to creating lawns, walking paths, playgrounds, picnic areas and growing spaces as part of the garden concept.

The new development was specifically sited to be a short walk from Pimlico Elementary/Middle School, a newly refurbished facility that is part of the 21st Century School Buildings Program.

CHAI recently received an allocation of 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credits for the portion of the project called Woodland Gardens I, where families will reside. This phase includes larger units.

Jarrett said the first senior will begin moving into the new building this spring.


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