The Anne Arundel Coalition of Tenants will soon begin collecting signatures to preserve the Bloomsbury Square housing project in Annapolis.

The state, which has wanted to buy Bloomsbury Square for more than 20 years, has included $3.5 million in its proposed capital budget to buy the apartments.

The sale price would be about $5 million.

The state hopes to raze Bloomsbury Square to expand the nearby House of Delegates Lowe Office Building and build a parking garage.

Annapolis Housing Authority officials have said they will sell the project only if tenants approve of the sale and it leads to homeownership for some public housing residents.

In interviews earlier this year, most Bloomsbury Square residents voiced opposition to the sale.

Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, a member of the coalition's board of directors, said the group hopes to preserve Bloomsbury Square or make sure the state and the housing authority provide comparable replacement housing downtown.

Last week, the tenant advocacy group sent a letter outlining its concerns to the state Department of Housing and Community Development and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Thepetition drive will begin March 20.

The coalition isn't the only group interested in seeing Bloomsbury Square preserved.

The Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter last month to Housing Authority Executive Director Harold Greene asking to be kept informed of negotiations with the state.

"Any relocation of the tenants which is accomplished with the purpose, or the effect, of causing tenants to no longer be living in a similarly situated, racially integrated community would violate HUD's regulations and the 1968 Fair Housing Act," wrote Carl Gabel, the union's special projectsattorney.

The state last tried to buy Bloomsbury Square in 1987. That effort ended in a federal lawsuit and a judge's order that 21 ofthe project's 51 units be renovated.

The renovations cost more than $2 million and were completed last year.

Tenants alleged in thelawsuit that shutting down the city's only downtown project would lead to more city housing segregation.

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