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Group proposes Riverdale Village homes New single-family houses would replace apartments in decaying old complex


A private, nonprofit group has proposed building as many as 80 single-family, detached houses priced in the $100,000 range on the site where half of the decaying Riverdale Village apartment complex in Essex-Middle River is slated for demolition next year.

The project, combined with cleanup efforts at the nearby Tall Trees and Chesapeake Village apartments, would reduce decay and blight, said P. David Fields, director of Baltimore County's Community Conservation Program.

But the $12.8 million proposal by Community Building Group Ltd. of Southwest Baltimore would require the state and county to bend some regulations to limit development costs.

Riverdale Village is a 1,200-unit, 50-year-old complex in the 1900 block of Eastern Blvd. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is moving to foreclose on half the complex, including 543 poorly-maintained and mostly-vacant units. HUD has agreed to pay for demolition of the brick buildings, Mr. Fields said.

The land would be sold to the county for $1. The county would like to demolish the whole complex, Mr. Fields said, if it could gain ownership of the other half.

The complex is owned by New York developer Richard Schlesinger, who, HUD officials said, has not made a mortgage payment on the HUD-insured half of the property for years. They also said he has not cooperated with attempts to clean up the property.

The apartments have been mostly untended and boarded. Some elderly tenants remain, many there for more than 25 years.

Community Building Group officials say they are not certain whether their idea will attract enough buyers but they want to see if county and state officials will help them control costs by bending some regulations.

"We think it is doable," said president Kathleen McDonald, who presented the plan to high-level county officials Friday in Towson. "Marketability is the big issue. Can we sell houses for $100,000 in this neighborhood?"

The idea is to block off through streets and create eight-home cul-de-sacs, using existing infrastructure wherever possible. The 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot frame houses, plus unfinished basements, would be built among large trees on the land. Berms and landscaping would shield homes from the rest of the complex, which Mr. Schlesinger would retain.

To keep prices low, the three-story houses would be sold with only one finished floor, containing two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and living room. Basements could be finished and two more bedrooms added on the second floor when buyers could afford it.

The project would be financed privately. The goal is to attract families of various income levels, although the state would provide some low-interest financing to moderate-income families, said Wayne Freeman, deputy director of the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

To make the deal work, the county would have to allow use of the old, narrow streets and waive rules on the distance of homes from lot lines.

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