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Barclay community celebrates phase 1 of major $85 million housing makeover

Construction on the $18 million installment of affordable housing will begin next week

Above: Boarded up windows and doors on Barclay and 23rd Street.

On Monday evening, Barclay resident Connie Ross sat in the basement of Ebenezer Baptist Church on the corner of E. 23rd Street surrounded by developers and community organizers and prayed. Wearing a green shirt printed with a cat, a boom box and the phrase “Do not disturb,” Ross sat next to her granddaughter and asked for a “productive meeting,” that this Friday would be “a good day,” and that “the community will be more involved in the process in the future.”

Why? Because today Ross’ community and the group she leads, the Barclay-Midway-Old Goucher Coalition (BMOG), are celebrating a huge turning point for what has been, in recent years, one of the most blighted parts of Baltimore.

After years of planning, Telesis, a national developer chosen by the BMOG and the city, recently closed financing on the first $18 million phase of a massive ten-year $85 million redevelopment plan that will produce 320 units of mixed-income housing scattered throughout Barclay-Midway-Old Goucher – an area grappling with a severe case of the malady that afflicts much of the city – dilapidated vacant housing.

People sitting outside on Barclay and 22nd Street

People sitting outside on Barclay and 22nd Street (Photo by Baltimore Brew)

In an earlier era, this part of central Baltimore was known for its families with German roots, beautiful tree-lined streets, and three-story Victorian townhouses. Nowadays, some of the city’s poorest residents live here, amid boarded-up windows, graffiti-splattered buildings and flashing blue police surveillance cameras (See below for a 2000 census snapshot of Barclay) .

But a robust array of community organizations have been working to improve the area for years through countless efforts including housing projects, community gardens, public art projects and rec center programming. These groups include the People’s Homesteading Group, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, the Barclay Leadership Council, the Old Goucher Community Association and the Greater Homewood Community Corporation.

“My opinion is that the community has made significant progress in the ten years since I’ve been working here,” said BMOG Public Relations Committee Chair Brad Schlegel, who began distributing trash cans with his Lutheran Brotherhood in Barclay in 1999 and has been working in the community ever since.

Enter Telesis

While years of effort helped improve the area, the city and neighborhood organizations took a dramatic step forward in 2006: The Housing Authority of Baltimore City and the Baltimore/Midway/Old Goucher Coalition (BMOG) selected Telesis Corp. to redevelop 268 city-owned scattered-site parcels into 320 units of mixed-income rental and for-sale housing units in the Barclay, Midway, and Old Goucher neighborhoods in four phases over the next ten years.

Schlegel is actively involved with BMOG Coalition, which has worked closely with Telesis and the city to facilitate the project:

“This is really the first major project where the city has basically acknowledged that the community is important to their overall goals of improving conditions for poor people – that’s essentially what we’re talking about,” said Schlegel in a phone call this week. “It’s been an outlandishly long process.”

“There’s an opportunity to build something new in vacant houses that wouldn’t displace other people, said Peter Duvall, who lives on Guilford Avenue and is president of the Old Goucher Community Association (also a member of BMOG).

Was Telesis the best choice for the project? “The jury is still out on that,” said Schlegel. “We [BMOG] were impressed by their presentation (in 2004)…If Telesis has the wherewithal to follow through with all four phases it will be a pretty nice neighborhood.”

“In general I think they’ve listened to the neighborhood as much as possible, though the whole thing has gone slower than people would have wanted,” said Duvall.

After almost five years of planning, Schlegel said he is excited construction will begin next week but wishes there had been more resident involvement in the process.

“Residents (with housing such as Section 8) were very concerned about what was going to happen to them,” said Schlegel. “There are very few of those people involved…Most of these people have left the neighborhood. We don’t know if they’re coming back. . . But bottom line is there is going to be a project and that’s the important thing.”

Telesis' map of the Barclay area

Telesis' map of the Barclay area (Photo courtesy of Telesis Corp.)

Affordable housing AND neighborhood uplift

So how exactly do those involved with the project think that it will make the Barclay area a better neighborhood?

Telesis project manager Catherine Stokes said that affordable housing is “a big goal of ours as an organization” but that if there was one goal in the project, “It would be the idea of neighborhood revitalization.”

“There is really a lot of change planned for Barclay,” said Stokes. “That, combined with a lot of things going on in Station North…there’s this opportunity for revitalization in this area.”

Stokes said there have been two goals in the planning process: To “make sure that the neighborhood continues to be affordable for people who have been there and to inject more of a market rate and home owner aspect to the area.” The latter was an important part of the new development for BMOG.

Telesis has “been trying to balance both objectives very carefully,” said Stokes.

So what exactly will this balance look like? Here’s a breakdown of the physical components of the BMOG plan, which includes employment programs and park and street improvements in addition to the new housing. Stokes said that the exact amount of additional affordable housing may change. “The best estimate is what you see in the plan,” she said. Here it is:

The BMOG Redevelopment Plan

· 101 market-rate homeowner properties
· 22 affordable homeowner opportunities (80% of area median income)
· 53 replacement public housing units
· 91 affordable rental units
· 65 market rate rental units
· Approx. 12,000 square feet of community and retail space
· A new neighborhood park
· An improved Calvert Street Park
· Improved streetscape across the neighborhood
· Construction jobs for residents and members of re-entry programs

First steps

The first phase of the above plan will begin next week and eventually produce 72 rental housing units, described as affordable (Telesis estimates that the rental price will be around $600 a month). These units will be a mixture of new and rehabbed units (the majority of which are boarded and vacant) and a combination of public and subsidized housing.

Financing for the first phase of the $18 million project, which Stokes announced closed on Monday, has been provided by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh.

Barclay and 22nd Street

Barclay and 22nd St. (Photo by Baltimore Brew)

Breakdown of Phase 1

· 19 newly constructed units, mostly townhouses, on the west side of the 2100 and 2200 blocks of Barclay Street, where the Housing authority recently conducted demolition.

· 53 of the units will be rehabbed, 29 of which will be one-bedroom apartments located in Homewood House in Midway, a former schoolhouse and public housing building located at 2200 Homewood Avenue. The site will also include landscaping, a community garden, and a walking path.

· The remaining 24 scattered site rehabbed units will be distributed among 12 buildings, and will be a mix of single family townhomes and multifamily buildings (Four of the buildings will be built on Calvert; two on 22nd; one on 21st; four on Barclay; and one on Guilford).

· 53 of the 72 units will be monitored by Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) but owned and operated by Telesis. (HABC has an obligation to replace former HABC housing in order to make sure the residents currently in the neighborhood can remain). These tenants will be selected primarily through a Housing Authority waitlist, according to Stokes.

· All 72 units will be subsidized by Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), and rents for all units will be 30% of the tenant’s income.

· According to Telesis, the current average rent is projected to be $612 but will vary according to the type of unit.

Mural on Calvert Street, near Ebenezer Baptist Church

Mural on Calvert Street, near Ebenezer Baptist Church (Photo by Baltimore Brew)

Proud to progress

The four-phase redevelopment is the biggest ingredient in a large pot of revitalization efforts brewing lately in the BMOG community. Now residents there want to show the world how much progress they’ve made. On Friday, the Greater Homewood Community Corporation (GHCC) and the BMOG will host “Barclay’s Back!,” an event celebrating the first $18-million phase of the Telesis project and an array of new youth and arts programs, such as the new Axis Alley art installation featuring work by local artists (2000-2212 N. Calvert Street), and renovated houses in the anchors of Hope project.

Though Brad Schlegel said residents voicing community concerns are the “missing piece” of the BMOG meetings, Connie Ross hopes that Friday’s event will bring actual residents into the process. “The purpose for that is to let the residents know about the redevelopment and get them involved in it,” said Ross, at Monday’s meeting.

The event will include a 3pm community press conference at Dallas F. Nicholas Elementary (201 E. 21st Street) followed by a block party and neighborhood tours between 3:30 p.m.-7 p.m. The event is open to the public.

The BMOG Coalition consists of the following community organizations: The Barclay Leadership Council, the Old Goucher Community Association, the Greater Greenmount Community Association, and the Peoples Homesteading Group. They meet the second Monday of every month. (On Federal holidays, they meet on the third Monday).

2000 Census snapshot of Barclay (pop 2,745)

· 35.6 percent make less than 10,000 a year and the median household income is $17,650
· 36.7 percent of families were below the poverty level in 1999; 38.7 of individuals.
· 90.3 black or African American
· 77.6 renters; 22.4 owners
· 55.1 percent completed high school

Barclay Photo Gallery (Photos by the Baltimore Brew)

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