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Planned senior housing gets HUD help

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Two senior citizen housing projects proposed for Northeast Baltimore - including a complex planned for the Memorial Stadium site - were each awarded $5.2 million in federal housing grants yesterday, officials said.

The beneficiaries are Stadium Place, a 71-unit retirement-living complex envisioned for East 33rd Street, and Woodbourne Woods, another 71-apartment facility planned by Good Samaritan Hospital of Maryland for a site on East Belvedere Avenue at Hillen Road.

"We jumped around the office - we were so excited," said Julia Pierson, executive director of the Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation (GEDCO), a collection of churches overseeing the planning, financing and construction of Stadium Place.

The money was part of $597 million in grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to nonprofit groups in 42 states.

"Our elderly should never have to worry about a safe and affordable place to live," HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo said in announcing the grants.

Both Good Samaritan and Govans Ecumenical Homes Corp., a GEDCO offshoot developing the stadium site, applied for the HUD grants last year. In addition to the construction grants, each project was awarded $1.1 million to subsidize rents in the first five years of operation.

The Woodbourne Woods project would serve very low-income independent seniors and be located next to Belvedere Green, another hospital project for the elderly subsidized by the federal government.

Stadium Place will eventually house up to 500 or more senior citizens on the old Memorial Stadium site. Demolition of the famed sports site could begin this winter, state officials said, and the 30 acres are expected to be cleared by this time next year.

Affordable and subsidized senior housing is at a premium, especially with the retirement of the baby boom generation on the horizon.

"The need is there," said Chad Dillard, director of public relations for Good Samaritan Hospital. Roughly 200 seniors are on the waiting list for Stadium Place, the retirement village planned for the Memorial Stadium site.

"Senior housing is hot, it sells out pre-construction and then becomes a cornerstone of the community," said Zack Germroth, the city housing spokesman. "That applies to Canton, West Baltimore, Northeast. It's a good investment on so many levels, a development and community point of view."

The first wave of residents could move in to Stadium Place as early as 2002, if all goes as planned, officials said. All of the units would not be completed until 2004, they said.

The $5.2 million award was the first substantial sum of money that GEDCO has raised for the ambitious $43 million proposal that won approval from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's administration officials in 1999, Pierson said.

HUD announced two other senior housing grants in Maryland yesterday. They were: $5.5 million for a 72-unit project in Fort Washington, Prince George's County; and $712,500 for a 10-unit senior housing project in Princess Anne, Somerset County.

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