Trying to mollify Baltimore County residents and retain a $20 million grant that federal auditors want rescinded, the city is proposing to level the troubled Hollander Ridge public housing complex and replace it with a 450-apartment "senior housing village."
The $51.5 million plan, which needs approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is a major departure from an earlier proposal to demolish half of the isolated complex and rebuild the rest -- maintaining it as traditional public housing.
The plan envisions a complex similar to more upscale, privately financed retirement communities such as Charlestown and Oak Crest. It would be a fenced complex of buildings providing housing and services for the elderly, including meals and medical care.
The major difference between the privately built communities and the new Hollander Ridge would be financial, with the new complex reserved for low-income tenants.
Hollander Ridge -- which opened in 1976 and is on the eastern edge of the city next to the Baltimore County community of Rosedale -- is cut off from the rest of Baltimore by Interstate 95.
The isolated, 1,000-unit complex has long been a problem for Rosedale residents who have complained of crime and vandalism spilling out of the development into their neighborhoods -- and of diminished property values.
Over the years, Hollander Ridge has fallen into disrepair. About 400 of its units are occupied -- 250 by elderly residents who live in a 20-story high-rise. The other occupants are 150 families with children in low-rise buildings; they would not be allowed to return once the complex is converted into elderly housing.
In response to neighbors' complaints, the city has been planning for months to surround the complex with an 8-foot-high, 10,000-foot-long, wrought-iron fence. Long Fence Co. Inc. expects to begin construction of the $1.3 million barrier in early July, said Richard Friedman, senior vice president.
In Baltimore County, residents and officials reacted cautiously to the new city plans -- and made it clear that construction of the fence is important to them despite the proposal to turn the site into housing for the elderly.
"Most people like this but are going to hedge their bets," said Michael H. Davis, spokesman for Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger. "They want to make sure the fence is built. "These people don't trust government. They don't trust us, much less the city."
The Ruppersberger administration is "cautiously optimistic," said Davis. "We're supportive of the concept as long as they can show that, once it's up and running, they can operate it successfully."
Gordon Malone, who has lived near Hollander Ridge for 15 years and been involved in discussions of the proposal with the developer for the new project, added, "That fence will be the olive branch."
He refused to comment on the elderly housing plan until "we can see that they're making an effort to address the problems in this community that incompetent management [of the city housing authority] created."
Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., whose district includes Rosedale, said the proposal has drawn "a mixed reaction from some of the neighborhood leaders. A few cling to the notion that the no-build option is viable.
"The fact is that's not going to be viable," added the Republican lawmaker, who characterized the plan as the best of all possibilities.
Inside Hollander Ridge, said Olusola O. Seriki, spokesman for developer Hollander Associates, residents have supported the plan.
"We have a very strong letter of support from the residents," who understood that senior housing was the best option, said Seriki.
"While there was significant emotion about the fact that [some residents] would not be able to come back," he said, "there was such a deep understanding that the leadership of the tenants' council came out and supported it."
Other options rejected
Hollander Associates has been working with residents of the complex since January to devise the plan.
A number of options were considered, said Seriki, including an office park, industrial park, retail complex and public housing -- all of which were rejected.
The plan calls for a community center surrounded by four three- or four-story apartment buildings linked by covered walkways. Most of the 60-acre site would be landscaped open space -- greenery, walking paths and a couple of ponds, according to the preliminary design.
Seriki said the project would be "very rich architecturally -- very different than what we have there today."
Units would be restricted to people with incomes in the $12,000-to-$22,000 range. They would pay rents of $350 to $425 a month, said Seriki. Thirty percent of the units would be public housing with rents paid by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, which selected Hollander Associates as the developer.
Daniel P. Henson III, who heads the housing authority, plans to unveil the plan at a news conference Tuesday. He refused to discuss it Friday.
"This is just a concept plan," Seriki said. "We look forward to fine-tuning it with the community." He said the plan was submitted to HUD on April 30.
In Washington, a HUD spokesman would say only that the plan is being reviewed. Among other things, HUD must take into hTC account a recommendation from its inspector general to rescind a $20 million grant awarded to Baltimore in October 1996 for reconstruction of Hollander Ridge.
In recommending cancellation of the grant last year, the inspector general cited irregularities in the award of the funds and a consultant's analysis that deemed the prospects for the long-term viability of Hollander Ridge so poor -- even after reconstruction -- that it recommended demolition of the buildings and disposal of the site.
Seriki said Friday that the prospects for a senior village are brighter than for traditional public housing.
Henson's agency and the development team are counting on the $20 million HUD grant. Their financing package also envisions $11 million from HUD grants to the housing authority, $8.8 million in state funds and $11.6 million in federal low-income tax credits, Seriki said.
Hollander Associates would end up owning the complex while the housing authority would retain ownership of the land and lease it to Hollander Associates on a long-term basis, according to Seriki.
"It is a private-sector initiative," he said.
Hollander Associates was formed by Metroventures/USA Inc.; Shelter Development LLC, which would manage the completed project; and A&R; Development Corp.
Seriki is a principal of Metroventures.
The architect is the Design Collective in collaboration with Billes-Manning Architects, Seriki said. Contractors would be Harkin Builders and Essex Construction Corp.
Pub Date: 5/31/98