Riverdale apartments demolition to begin; Property seen as a key in revitalizing east county


Demolition begins today on the remaining units at the empty Riverdale apartment complex in Essex, once a high-crime area and a nagging eyesore.

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger will be joined by U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes and other officials as workers begin clearing the site in the 1800 block of Eastern Blvd.

"Today's demolition takes us a giant step closer to realizing the potential of the 64 acres once known as Riverdale," Ruppersberger said.

The site contains 45 two-story buildings. Demolition is expected to be completed in the summer.

"This property, which enjoys close proximity to the waterfront, will play a key role in our efforts to continue the revitalization of Essex and Middle River," Ruppersberger said.

Riverdale, a World War II-era complex, could be replaced with single-family homes, open space or commercial space, officials have said.

Riverdale will be the latest high-density apartment complex to be demolished as part of Ruppersberger's plan to revitalize the county's east side.

Chesapeake Village, a complex near Dark Head Cove with 252 units, was razed in June. In November last year, 430 townhouses and apartments in Tidewater Village in Chase were demolished; other units at the complex were renovated. Open space created by the demolition there would become part of the planned Dundee-Saltpeter Creeks Park.

Two blocks of a troubled Dundalk neighborhood on Yorkway also are targeted for demolition, and county officials are negotiating to buy the buildings at the Villages of Tall Trees in Essex. Those buildings are owned by 38 landlords.

Demolition at Tall Trees is expected to start next year. The site will be converted to open space.

The first round of demolition at Riverdale began in April of last year when the front section of the property was bulldozed.

Riverdale was purchased 20 years ago by Richard Schlesinger, a Palm Beach, Fla., real-estate executive. Investigations later alleged that Schlesinger had defaulted on his federally insured mortgage and failed to pay his county property taxes.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. also accused Schlesinger, who lives in a $13 million oceanfront mansion, of failing to pay $600,000 in utility bills on the complex.

The U.S. attorney for Maryland is conducting a criminal investigation of Schlesinger concerning an alleged pattern of bid-rigging and kickbacks at Riverdale totaling $500,000.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development seized the front section of Riverdale in 1997 and sold it to the county for $1. The county acquired the rest in September.

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