Residents take role in housing grant plan Clay Street community warily joins proposal to raze homes, rebuild


Clay Street community residents grudgingly supported last night the Annapolis Housing Authority's controversial proposal to apply for a multimillion-dollar federal grant to demolish and rebuild two of the city's poorest housing complexes.

Under the HOPE VI project, Obery Court and College Creek Terrace would be razed and the city would buy land along Clay Street on which to build about 200 townhouses for renters and home owners.

Despite misgivings, residents at Obery Court Recreational Center began drafting a plan yesterday for a new community that could include a waterfront park along College Creek, a playground, an educational center and job-training sites.

It was a big step forward from Wednesday night's meeting at the center when more than 100 angry residents accused the Housing Authority of trying to evict them.

"At least they are willing to talk now," said Patricia H. Croslan, executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority. "They are willing to put ideas on the table today and are considering it, at least."

Architects and project developers will draw up plans to discuss at the next meeting, which has not been scheduled.

Yesterday, a question-and-answer session lasted for almost two hours as developers and housing officials tried to alleviate concerns.

Project officials explained that HOPE VI would help bring self-sufficiency to residents by giving them educational and business training, and lead to new businesses, with possibly some owned and operated by residents.

Of the new residences planned under HOPE VI, more than 90 would be available for ownership and 106 for public housing and private rental, reducing the 163 public housing units now in Obery Court and College Creek Terrace.

That last issue causes much of the tension and mistrust.

Some residents believe HOPE VI is a new version of urban renewal, which promised newer and better housing for urban communities in the 1970s but led to the destruction of many mostly black communities by relocating families and businesses.

"They say they're going to do all this, but how can we believe them?" asked Robert H. Eades, an Obery Court resident. "They say if we don't want to do this, we don't have to. But why are we drawing up plans? They're trying to push us around and trick us into believing it's what we want."

Earlier, Croslan said that "HOPE VI is the only way I, and the Housing Authority, can think of to [improve] housing for the people who live here."

She also said the agency cannot apply for the HOPE VI grant without community support, according to Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines.

Pub Date: 5/29/98

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