Dundalk revitalization

The Baltimore Sun

New energy-efficient, single-family homes could soon fill the site of a demolished apartment complex in the heart of Dundalk.

The Baltimore County Council is expected to review plans tonight for the 66-home, planned unit development of Yorkway that officials and community groups are hailing for its potential to revitalize and enhance the once-blighted area.

"We are going from blocks of run-down homes that generated as many as 3,000 police calls a year," said Councilman John Olszewski Sr., who represents the district and will introduce the resolution tonight. "People were afraid to come out of their houses because of criminal activity. Now everybody is really excited and looking forward to new families coming into the community."

With the World War II-era apartments eliminated, police have reported a significant reduction in calls, officials said. Instead of 20 multi-unit buildings, the builder promises detached houses with front and back yards.

"This is a win-win for the community," Olszewski said. "There will be less crime, less density of houses and the houses will conform with what is already here."

Yorkway LLC, the developer, is expected to settle with the county on the sale of the property next month, officials said. Ryan Homes, the contract builder, has discussed its plans with area residents and sponsored a bus trip to its Cecil County development to give residents a preview of what Yorkway will look like.

The builder has promised that the housing will be as environmentally friendly as possible, with brick fronts and garages facing alleys to mesh with traditional designs, said Amy Menzer, executive director of the Dundalk Renaissance Corp.

The county paid nearly $21 million for the 10-acre property three years ago and razed the last of some 80 apartments last year. Yorkway LLC bought the property at a county-organized auction for about $1.65 million.

"True renaissance could never take place until this complex was removed," county spokesman Donald I. Mohler III said. "The idea was to buy, demolish and rebuild with market-rate housing. There was never any assumption the county would recoup anywhere near its investment through the sale of the property. The real key to Yorkway is that this development will totally transform the neighborhood, and you can't put a price on that."

Yorkway's proximity to major transportation arteries should make it appealing to military families and contractors moving to Maryland as part of BRAC, the nationwide military base expansion that could bring as many as 30,000 new residents to the state in the next two years as the Army expands Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County and Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County, Olszewski said.

One hurdle the council must clear is the community benefit component in the county's planned-unit development agreement. Council members are insisting on significant contributions to quality of life. The developer has offered to establish a scholarship fund for area students attending Dundalk Community College. But several officials want more.

"The PUD was offered here in response to the undervalued sale of the property and to ensure the quality of the development," Councilman Kevin Kamenetz said. "We want to see something on the site."

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