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City OKs purchase of apartment complexes

The Baltimore Sun

The city's Board of Estimates approved the acquisition of five Northwest Baltimore properties yesterday, including the Pall Mall Apartments, once known for drug activity and shootings.

The city bought the Pall Mall Apartments - known as "the ranch" to police - with a $30,100 bid at an auction Oct. 17.

Over the past month, the city has acquired four other nearby properties at auctions, three for $10 and one for $15,100.

Because the prices were relatively low, the Board of Estimates approved the purchases after the properties were acquired.

Four of the apartment complexes - at 3400 and 3322 1/2 Woodland Ave., 4500-4504 Pimlico Road and 4410 Pall Mall Road - are in Park Heights. Another, at 2306-2328 Riggs Ave., is in Sandtown-Winchester.

An out-of-town landlord, Allan S. Bird, owned each of the rundown properties. The apartment complexes - totaling more than 200 units - received Section 8 vouchers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

City officials said they hope to obtain a final Bird property, Mosher Courts, at a coming auction. It lost one of Bird's properties, Garrison Apartments, to a developer.

Baltimore officials hailed the nearing of the end of a process that began in July 2005 when they revoked Bird's multiple-family dwelling license for Pall Mall Apartments, deeming it a "drug nuisance."

"Because we took the initial step, we really believe that forced HUD to move ahead and take the responsible action that was merited on all of these properties," said city Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano.

The complexes have been empty for more than a year. Residents were given Section 8 vouchers to find other housing.

The city will demolish the buildings and then look at redevelopment of the properties, which will include affordable housing, Graziano said.

"We expect there will be new construction, and we know that it will be high-quality and totally different than what's been there," said Graziano. "These properties were not a place where anybody should have to live, and had a horrendous negative impact on the surrounding neighborhoods."

In 1997, HUD listed Bird as one of the worst of the landlords receiving subsidies from the agency. Bird collected $25 million a year in federal housing assistance for 104 properties across the country, and 43 failed physical or financial inspections, the department said.

City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, whose former district included the Pall Mall Apartments, praised yesterday's purchase, recalling her visit there two year ago.

"I knew that it required some serious intervention," she said. "I'm very pleased with this turn of events."


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