Ground has been broken on the first phase of the O’Donnell Heights redevelopments, with completion of 76 townhouse-style housing units and associated infrastructure anticipated for the first quarter of 2014, according to Andrew Vincent of AHC Greater Baltimore, the firm implementing the project along with the Michaels Organization, in conjunction with the Baltimore Housing Authority.
Funding for the $20 million phase was recently finalized, allowing the redevelopment to move forward.
“I think it’s really exciting for that community to get that amount of investment, and have that investment go toward high-quality, energy-efficient housing,” said Vincent.
The housing units will be built to meet Energy Star standards, and the overall apartment community will be Green Communities certified, according to press materials released on the project.
The 76 units will sit on 5.5 acres of the 62-acre site located between O’Donnell and Boston streets, just east of Boston Street’s I-95 interchange.
Thirty-eight of those units will be “heavily subsidized” housing—dedicated to those earning 30 percent or less of the median income. The other 38 units will be “affordable” housing—dedicated to those earning between 30 and 50 percent of the median. For the affordable units, the inhabitants will pay their own utilities, and rent will be set to the affordable rate.
According to Vincent, that rate happens to be more or less equivalent to the market rental rate of the surrounding neighborhood.
The 76 units underway are just the first part of the first phase of redevelopment, Vincent said.
“There will be a lot of phases—it’s a 62-acre site,” he said.
The original O’Donnell Heights housing project had roughly 900 housing units, according to Vincent, and 300 of those are still standing today. He said that residents in those 300 will eventually be relocated to temporary residences until their housing units inside the redevelopment are completed. The first O’Donnell Heights was built in 1942. It was barracks-style housing that was last updated in 1983. The site is currently a wide open grassy area, with construction activity just starting on the 5.5 acres set aside for the first phase.
Developers have said that the redevelopment will include a mixture of deeply-subsidized units, affordable units, and units offered for sale on the public market. Vincent said that he can’t say how many units will be subsidized vs. affordable vs. for-sale at this time.
“That is all still waiting to be determined,” he said. “We felt it was really important to put a lot of effort into getting the first phase financed and getting some shovels in the ground to show people what this will really look like.”
Vincent said that for the most part, the apartments will be two-story townhomes.
Funding for the first phase of the project includes $13.4 million from the sale of low income housing tax credits, awarded by the state. Another $1.5 million comes from HOME funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, awarded by Baltimore City. There’s also a $3.6 million “permanent loan” awarded by Bellwether/Enterprise, and $1.4 million loan from the Federal home Loan Bank of New York.
The site is being developed jointly by AHC Greater Baltimore and the Michaels Organization, at the behest of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. Bozzuto Construction Company has been tapped for the construction of the housing and associated infrastructure, including the street grid and utilities.
Some residents in the surrounding area have expressed concerns about services provided for O’Donnell Heights residents upon completion of the development. Vincent said that the development’s operating budget includes a line item for a part-time social services coordinator, but that several agencies have sent letters of intent offering to provide services to the residents for free. He added that an assessment will be done closer to completion to determine what kind of services and programming will be available.
by Erik Zygmont