Theresa Hamer stood under a tangle of wires at the entrance of her Harbour House apartment building one afternoon last week, keeping a close eye -- through a hole in the front door -- on two toddlers playing tag.
Railings sway in the breeze, and the intercom box is broken at Building 1130, but Ms. Hamer isn't complaining about the disrepair. It's temporary, as is her home in this building. The noisy construction across the street reminds her that her neighborhood is in the midst of a transformation.
Harbour House, the largest of Annapolis' 10 public housing communities, is undergoing a radical overhaul. Housing officials are spending some $8 million in federal grants to renovate the collection of brick buildings that has been notorious for open-air drug markets and sporadic violence.
Last month, construction workers cleared out the first 22 apartments, relocating Ms. Hamer and her neighbors, and stripped the buildings. All 273 units will be gutted and refurbished with new paint, tile floors and fixtures over the next year and a half.
The interior work represents the second phase of an ambitious project to renew the community, said Harold S. Greene, executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority.
In the last year, housing officials have replaced the roofs, gutters and lights on all 25 buildings and opened a popular satellite police station. The foundation has been laid for a two-story addition to the community center that Harbour House shares with Eastport Terrace. Mr. Greene, a former professional boxer, plans to teach young boys the sport once the gym is finished.
"There is a new spirit in the community," he said.
The satellite police station, which opened in last June, has gone a long way toward ridding Harbour House of open drug dealing and shifting control of the streets back to residents, Mr. Greene and police officials said. Two city police officers work regularly out of the converted basement apartment, walking the streets and chatting with neighbors.
Residents have relished the chance to leave their homes without getting mugged or hassled, although they complain that the brasher drug dealers still ply their trade at nights. By all accounts, crime has dropped.
The renovations are the final touch in rebuilding the community, which was developed as middle-income housing in Eastport in the early 1960s, Mr. Greene said.
When purchased by the Housing Authority in 1968, Harbour House was a well-kept complex with wide, green lawns. But the garden-style apartments deteriorated with constant turnover and only routine upkeep.
The first two buildings under renovation have been set aside for seniors, said Don Bibb, the authority's director of modernization. They are the only ones to have air conditioning, as stipulated by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
New railings will be installed on the balconies, and the apartments will be outfitted with modern bathrooms and kitchens. Many still had the original gas stoves, Mr. Bibb said, pointing out a rusty, yellow Royal Rose. "Some are just impeccably clean, like they're new," he said.
Regular doors will be installed instead of the folding ones popular in the 1960s, and the parquet floors will be replaced with vinyl tile, which is easier to maintain.
Both plans please Ms. Hamer, a mother of four, who has lived at Harbour House for three years.
"It wasn't really too bad, but . . . I think it's going to look nice."