For years, the Frankford Improvement Association has fought to protect its Northeast Baltimore neighborhood from urban blight. Yet there's always been at least one seemingly unconquerable foe: Strathdale Manor.
The 123-building apartment complex spread over 18 acres has been vacant since April 1997. It has become a shelter for the homeless, a refuge for stray dogs and a dumping ground littered with old furniture, dirty clothes and discarded tires.
But relief could come soon to the neighborhood that has endured the complex's decline. Officials from the city's Department of Housing and Community Development plan to meet with two prospective developers this week to discuss proposals for the property.
"I feel pretty confident [demolition and new construction] will happen," said Raymond Lowder, the association's president. "It's been such a nightmare here."
John Milton Wesley, a housing department spokesman, said representatives of Blair McDaniels LLC and Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse are scheduled to present proposals for the site to the city's land acquisition department Wednesday. The firms then will present their ideas to the community group.
"Based on feedback from all those involved, a recommendation will be made to the commissioner," Wesley said. That will take three to four weeks, he said.
Wesley said Blair McDaniels submitted a proposal in May that outlined plans to build 144 semidetached and six detached two-story, three-bedroom, wood-faced houses that will sell for $105,000 to $130,000. The $23 million project would begin in November 2000 and be completed by November 2006.
The Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse plan calls for 106 semidetached and 50 detached two-story, three-bedroom, brick-faced houses that will sell for $89,000 to $150,000, Wesley said. The $20 million project would begin next October and be completed in three years.
The city is considering razing the apartments in the 6100 block of Frankford Ave. "We're still negotiating over that part of the offer," Wesley said.
The city acquired the complex, which was saddled with $2 million in unpaid taxes, water bills and other liens, for $100 at a foreclosure sale in May 1997. For 20 years, residents watched the 1950s-era brick apartment complex change ownership and deteriorate because of drugs and vandalism.
A community association member, Gladine Harvey, said the neighborhood did what it could to fight back. Nearby residents have called police to report a few fires, homeless people in the empty apartments and illegal dumping. A group of residents once followed a van to a church and confronted its driver, who had dumped trash on the grounds. Police have credited the association with keeping intruders out of the complex.
Still, vandals have left graffiti on many of the buildings, and trash accumulates.
"We're just all so happy that it might be over," said Harvey, who lives in the 4800 block of Greencrest Road. "I just hope it happens."
Pub Date: 10/04/99