THE NORTHWAY apartment building at 3700 N. Charles St., once one of Baltimore's grandest residences, would be converted to upscale housing for the elderly, if a Virginia-based developer succeeds in obtaining financing and construction approvals for the project.
Baltimore's Planning Commission is scheduled today to consider a City Council bill that would authorize the developer to proceed with the project as a conditional use for the property.
Morningside Developments of Middleburg, Va., has a contract to acquire the 11-story building, which dates from 1932. The company plans to invest about $17 million to buy the building and convert it to residences for the elderly, said President G. Nevill Turner.
"It's a beautiful building," Turner said. "We want to bring it back to its former glory."
Plans call for the top five floors to contain about 55 apartments for residents who can live independently and for the lower floors to contain about 110 assisted-living units for residents who need day-to-day help from "wellness center" staffers.
As part of the assisted-living section, a "special needs" wing would house up to 22 residents with Alzheimer's disease and other memory disorders. The work also includes upgrading mechanical systems; replacing windows and elevators; repainting exterior walls; restoring the lobby; replanting gardens; and making other improvements.
D'Aleo Inc. of Baltimore is the architect for the project, tentatively called Morningside House at Northway. Turner said he hopes to begin work early next year and open the project by the end of 2000 or early 2001. Hamel Builders of Elkridge would be the general contractor.
Founded in 1992, Morningside Developments operates residences for the elderly in Maryland and Virginia, including developments in Laurel, Hanover, St. Charles and Parkville in Maryland and Leesburg in Virginia.
Turner said he has been looking for a property in Baltimore that was in the "inner suburbs" or had an "outer urban" setting and that the Northway -- north of the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus -- is a "perfect location" for the project he envisions.
He said the residences would be designed for elderly residents who want to stay in the area where they have friends and relatives but "can't quite cope on their own at home." He said he hopes to draw residents from Roland Park, Tuscany-Canterbury and other nearby city neighborhoods.
Unlike "continuing-care retirement communities" in the suburbs, such as Oak Crest Village and Blakehurst, Morningside House at Northway will not charge an entrance fee of $150,000 or more, Turner said.
Residents will pay a one-time "community fee" of about $6,000 to $9,000 and then monthly fees to cover rent and other services. He said the basic monthly fee includes "breakfast, lunch, dinner and tea 365 days a year."
Cherry Hill Limited Partnership owns the building, which has about 85 apartments and is fully occupied. If the project moves ahead, Turner said, residents will be asked to vacate the premises so the renovations can begin. Most are on month-to-month leases, and all will be notified as soon as Morningside acquires the property, he added.
The Planning Commission meeting will begin at 1: 30 p.m. today on the eighth floor of the municipal building at 417 E. Fayette St.
The project is expected to result in the creation of about 60 jobs, Turner said. More information about the residences is available from Morningside at 540-687-6161.
Central business district topic of forum discussion
A plan to rejuvenate Baltimore's central business district will be the subject of a forum at noon Wednesday at the Johns Hopkins University's Downtown Center, Charles and Saratoga streets.
Dominic Wiker, business development manager for the Downtown Partnership, will lead the discussion, which is free and open to the public.