Apartments to be rebuilt Fire destroys 101 unfinished units for low-income elderly


A three-alarm fire labeled suspicious by fire officials all bu destroyed the $5.4 million Park Caton apartments that were under construction in Catonsville.

But the 101 low-income apartments for the elderly will be rebuilt, the developer said today after damage was assessed from last night's devastating fire in the 300 block of Maiden Choice Lane.

"We're talking today to our insurance people and our contractor," said Marilynn Duker, senior vice president of Shelter Development.

Duker said none of the prospective tenants on the waiting list for the apartments had yet signed leases, since the building was just being dry-walled and was still two months from completion by Harkins Builders of Silver Spring.

The sprinkler system and two fire hydrants at the site were to have been tested this week but had not yet been turned on when the fire broke out, Duker said.

Firefighters had to use a hydrant on Maiden Choice Lane and relay water in tanker trucks.

County Battalion Chief Ralph Nelson said the fire is considered of "suspicious" origin. He said fire investigators would search the rubble today for the cause and source of the fire.

Firefighters were called back to the steaming ruins about 4 a.m. when smoldering wood flared anew, but that was easily extinguished, Nelson said. The initial blaze reduced the 80,000-square-foot, U-shaped apartment building of one-bedroom units to smoking debris and twisted metal.

The roof and most of the floors collapsed during the fire, leaving ++ only a few brick walls standing, police said.

The fire was reported shortly after 7 p.m. and went to three alarms in several minutes. More than 200 firefighters from stations in Baltimore and Howard counties and the city took more than two hours to bring the fire under control, police said.

No injuries were reported.

Park Caton, scheduled to open in May, would have provided housing for single people ages 62 or older with annual incomes of less than $17,010, or for couples with incomes under $19,500. Projected rents ranged from $335 to $380 per month. Shelter has built one earlier apartment house for the elderly in Dundalk and has begun work on a third project, Timothy House, in Towson.

Police said 300 people are on a waiting list to move in to Park Caton, which is on formerly city-owned land within Baltimore County.

Wilkens District police said the fire lighted up the area and was visible from the station about a mile away.

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