Remington's vacant housing stock turning heads

Remington's housing stock is about to get a big boost.

Baltimore City and a private redevelopment company are moving ahead with separate plans to foster home ownership in the neighborhood by rehabbing vacant houses, many of them on Remington Avenue.

Seawall Development Corp., best known for turning two old mills into affordable apartments for teachers, has purchased six boarded-up row houses from their owners or at auction — two on Howard Street, three on Lorraine Street and one on Remington Avenue.

"It's literally about the rebuilding of the community," said Donald Manekin, a Seawall partner. He said the six Seawall houses are in "shell conditions."

The city, as part of its Vacants to Value program to revitalize neighborhoods, will put out a Request for Proposals as early as Friday, asking developers to bid on a project to rehab nine houses in the 2800 block of Remington Avenue.

"We're looking for a developer that can rehab the whole block," said Housing Department Deputy Commissioner Julie Day.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said she asked housing officials to indicate in the RFP that the city's goal for the houses is home ownership.

Seawall will bid on the city-controlled houses, Manekin said.

The Hampden-based Episcopal Housing Corporation, which rehabs vacant houses mostly in west Baltimore and Collington Square near Johns Hopkins Hospital, also plans to bid on the city houses, and wants to "expand our reach" into the Remington-Hampden area, said Executive Director Dan McCarthy.

Judith Kunst, Greater Remington Improvement Association president, attributes the recent attention to housing in Remington partly to plans to build the Walmart-anchored 25th Street Station shopping center at 25th and Howard streets.

"Remington is getting a lot of interest with the $70 million development coming," Kunst said.

And she wants to make sure the community benefits as the city overhauls its comprehensive zoning laws for the first time in 40 years.

"We have a great deal of vacant houses that we would like to see home owners and responsible tenants in," she said.

Manekin said Seawall's interest in home-buying and rehabbing grew out of conversations with tenants of the Miller's Court apartment complex, the first of the mills that Seawall redeveloped.

He said several teachers who have lived there for two years told him they were interested in buying a house in the city, and asked him, "Do you do housing?"

That got Seawall thinking, "Is there an opportunity for us to acquire some of this housing and redevelop it?" Manekin said.

The houses Seawall bought aren't aimed at a specific market, Manekin said.

Neither are the houses the city is taking bids to rehab, Councilwoman Clarke said.

"We want home ownership," she said.

"And we want responsible people," Kunst said.

Manekin said Seawall hopes to acquire as many as 20 houses in Remington, either by winning the city job or buying more houses on its own.

Seawall plans to "invest enough capital to make them strong — and make them affordable," he said.

He said the community is seeing younger residents.

"It's an exciting place," said Manekin, whose Miller's Court sits at 25th and Howard streets, on the Charles Village-Remington border.

Kunst said she is seeing more Miller's Court residents at meetings of her community association.

"I'm thrilled to have attention on Remington," she said. "We are happening."

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