The building at Annapolis' worst drug corner is battered and abandoned, riddled with bullet holes and filled with roaches. But for the Clay Street community, the two-story brick Butterworth Building is not a lost cause.
By April 1, the city will put a police substation in the building at Clay and West Washington streets. Community activists hope to turn the building into a neighborhood outreach center.
The Clay Street Improvement Association is working with the city's Planning and Zoning Department to tap government loans so that it can set up shop in the building.
The group would establish a range of community outreach programs including drug rehabilitation and tutoring, neighborhood activists say.
The building has a bloody history. Three people have been killed there in the past five years. Fourteen bullet holes pockmark the walls where Cpl. James Doran, a leader of the Annapolis Special Emergency Team, was hit in the abdomen and left thigh in a drug raid in February 1993.
The building has been empty since its owner, Stevensville developer Bruce H. Butterworth, evicted the last tenants five months ago.
"It's been a nightmare for me," Mr. Butterworth said as he surveyed the abandoned apartments last week. "You would get blue-collar, working-class, hard-working people here, and you know why they'd leave? Fear. They were afraid of the drug dealers banging down their doors."
Mr. Butterworth is eager to unload the property. He bought it in 1979 for $100,000, has made about $200,000 worth of renovation and repairs and owes close to $300,000 because of damage it has sustained.
The city will pay close to $2,000 a month to cover the interest on the building loan, he said, though the principal will remain his responsibility.
After evicting the last tenants, Mr. Butterworth tried to work out a deal to allow the Helping Hand outreach group to buy the building, but it didn't have the money.
Mr. Butterworth said he hopes that a neighborhood action group will take root there and eventually replace the police on the bottom floor.
The real estate developer said there was only one caveat in the deal with the city: that the property eventually be used for anti-drug programs.
"It's a personal thing," said Mr. Butterworth, 54. "It's because of my son."
David Butterworth was 23 when he drowned off Ocean City five years ago. Though the Butterworth family never determined whether drugs caused his death, they knew David couldn't stay away from cocaine.
David helped renovate the building -- a job his father gave him in one of many attempts to break his son's drug addiction.
"It will be a relief to get rid of [the building]," Mr. Butterworth said. "And what it's going to become is something good."
The city has appropriated $15,000 to upgrade the electricity and clean the building.
Upstairs, the hallways are filled with gaping holes, and the rooms are darkened under broken lighting fixtures. Paint peels off the walls in large triangles in the kitchens. Alongside a rusting refrigerator, dead roaches lie a quarter-inch deep.
'A rough life'
But even in its state of disrepair, there remain signs that past tenants tried to make the place a home. Pink and purple wallpaper lines the border of one bedroom. A child's drawing of a snail is still taped to a hallway wall.
"Actually, it's a pretty solid building," Mr. Butterworth said.
"It's just had a rough life."