A group of federal Housing and Urban Development officials yesterday visited Lexington Terrace as the city competes for a $20 million grant to help rebuild and revitalize the cramped west side housing complex.
Baltimore is the group's first stop in a tour of six cities vying for federal funds that will be used to redevelop decaying urban areas. City officials hope to tear down the five towers at Lexington Terrace -- two of which are boarded up-- and build a community consisting of rowhouses, a business center, a day care center and student apartments.
Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III led the group through a tour and the first day of a two-day presentation to show how HUD funds would be used to revamp the dilapidated development.
"We have to convince them that if they make the award here in Baltimore that we won't let them down," said Mr. Henson, who is also executive director of the Housing Authority. "Obviously we see some positiveness in the fact that they chose to come to Baltimore first."
The proposed $68 million reconstruction of the housing development is part of a $293 million overhaul of the four public high-rise complexes in the city. The officials also toured six high-rises at Lafayette Courts in East Baltimore that are scheduled to be imploded Aug. 19 to make way for renovations.
Representatives from several city agencies and organizations participated in the presentation. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke briefly attended the meeting to emphasize the city's commitment to "create a whole new neighborhood" at Lexington Terrace, which is in the middle of one of the city's empowerment zones.
"Baltimore has been known for its revitalization of downtown, but I see it also being done in neighborhoods," Mr. Schmoke told the group. "It will be a great model and one you can talk about in other cities."
Pauline Watkins, an eight-year resident of Lexington Terrace and member of the tenant council, said the city has done a great deal to clean up what was once a crime-ridden area.
"The problems we used to have here, we don't have anymore," Mrs. Watkins said. "We just want a chance to help ourselves."
The cooperation between residents, area businesses and government will make the revitalization of Lexington Terrace successful, Mr. Henson said.
As an example of that cooperation, city officials yesterday showcased the midyear awards presentation for Back to Basics, a medical transcription job training program based in Lexington Terrace, which seeks to get women off public assistance and into the work force. The program is an effort among residents, private businesses and the University of Maryland Medical System.
Hakim R. Farrakhan, assistant vice president of the University of Maryland Medical System, said an award from HUD could only attract more programs such as Back to Basics to Lexington Terrace.
"This is a fertile ground for revitalization," he said. "People here are excited, motivated, and very interested in bettering their community."