Whiskey Bottom Apartments, a 1,088-unit North Laurel complex that neighbors have described as a dilapidated eyesore and magnet for drug activity, finally is getting a face lift.
After nearly two years of negotiations, Krupp Companies, the Boston-based mortgage and management firm that owns the complex, has received a $32 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay off old loans.
The deal clears the way for Krupp to spend more than $3 million of its own money to repair the worst parts of the complex over the next 12 months, HUD and company officials said.
Whiskey Bottom Apartments had been set for auction last Monday, but representatives from Krupp and HUD hurried to close the deal Sept. 17, allowing Krupp to pay off a number of loans.
"Krupp was trying to find a way to make repairs," said Mary Ann Henderson, chief of the housing program for HUD in Baltimore. "We viewed [Whiskey Bottom] as a community that needed a shot in the arm."
Krupp plans to renovate about 75 percent of the dilapidated apartments, said Ron Halpern, executive vice president of the Krupp Mortgage Co. About 25 percent of the apartments have been upgraded within the last two years.
"When the rehab is through, all the apartments will be renovated, interiors and exteriors, which should please our tenants and our investors," added Maryann Merigan, a vice president for Krupp.
Over the past several years, Whiskey Bottom residents and their neighbors complained to local and state representatives that the older parts of the complex, which were built 20 years ago, have become uninhabitable.
"Roofs need to be replaced," said Sheri Trammell, who lives in the Whiskey Bottom complex. "There's a lot of termite damage. There's a lot of water damage. . . . There's only one room in my apartment that has not flooded."
Because many of the apartments sit vacant and have been allowed to deteriorate, homeless people have sought shelter in the buildings during cold months and youths have used them for drinking and using drugs, residents and police said.
Parents of Laurel Woods Elementary School children worried about their children attending school next door to the complex.
"It's our neighborhood," said Donna Thewes, a member of the North Laurel Civic Association. "We like it to look nice, not run down. . . . I can't wait to see them fixed up."
Last week's loan caps a negotiation process that began in April 1991 when the 25-year-old Krupp company filed for bankruptcy.
The company first attempted to retain ownership of the complex by refinancing the property's loans through the government's housing agency. While HUD processed the loan, Krupp fell deeper into debt and nearly lost the apartments.
The Travelers, a Hartford, Conn.-based company that held the ++ insurance policy on the Whiskey Bottom apartments, had planned to auction the property unless the debt was paid.