THE ANNAPOLIS Housing Authority wisely decided to delay for one year its bid for a federal grant to rebuild public housing on Clay Street, a few hundred feet from the headquarters of Anne Arundel County government.
Though revitalization of rundown housing should happen sooner rather than later, the authority needs first to win the support and participation of tenants.
Residents remain fearful that this project, HOPE VI, is a reincarnation of urban renewal of the late 1960s and early 1970s, a strategy they recall with disdain. Previous redevelopment destroyed black communities in the state capital, moving families out of downtown to the city's periphery.
Patricia Croslan, the authority's new executive director, will have her work cut out to persuade residents of Obery Court and College Creek Terraces those mistakes won't be repeated. Federal and local housing officials acknowledge they've learned from past failures.
Unfortunately, a few people with ulterior motives seek to exploit this legacy for their own gain.
People who benefit from drug and prostitution activity on Clay Street don't want improvements that might change the neighborhood and disrupt their illegal businesses. Others may want to spread seeds of suspicion so they can insinuate themselves in the process later as paid "consultants" or "facilitators." Residents need to recognize those not working in their interest.
Ms. Croslan and others are determined to proceed with plans to demolish and replace 163 units with 200 subsidized and privately owned townhouses. In the coming months, she hopes to distribute a survey to residents. This time, the authority wants to be able to answer specific questions on how the project will affect each family.
Change is coming to Clay Street. Those in the community must decide whether they want to shape the redevelopment, or sit on the sidelines and let others do it.
They should not pass up this opportunity to plan and improve their future.
Pub Date: 6/12/98