Mission First Housing Group

Baltimore housing authority selects Harbor Point developer for Perkins Homes overhaul

by Mission First Housing

Yvonne Wenger and Sarah Gantz, The Baltimore Sun

The sprawling and aged Perkins Homes public housing complex will be redeveloped under a preliminary agreement with a team led by the company behind Harbor Point, giving the developer control of much of the land in Southeast Baltimore between Old Town Mall and its $1 billion waterfront project.

Housing Authority of Baltimore City selected Beatty Development Group and its partners to replace the 75-year-old complex with “high quality housing for people from all income levels.” Officials did not release details about the project, saying they must still negotiate with the developers.

The complex, home to roughly 1,400 people in about 630 apartments, sits on 17 acres of prime real estate that is seen as a critical link between the rising development on the harbor, the revitalization effort surrounding Johns Hopkins Hospital and the planned transformation of the long-distressed pedestrian mall.

Affordable housing advocate Barbara A. Samuels said the Perkins project could be a watershed moment in Baltimore. She said the development plan should not only match one-for-one Perkins’ subsidized housing but spread the units across the site, as opposed to clustering them and allowing the land to become an extension of the ritzy waterfront.

“Perkins has really unique potential to either further segregation in the city, the two Baltimores, or to begin working toward one Baltimore and resolving that issue,” said Samuels, managing attorney for ACLU of Maryland’s Fair Housing Project. “Is it going to be used as an opportunity to really start creating a diverse and racially integrated community?”

Eighty-year-old Grace Homer has lived at Perkins for 50 years. Her reaction to hearing about the development agreement was swift: “Tear it down.”

Sitting on her front stoop with her dog Sky, Homer said rats and mice have the run of the complex, climbing the buildings’ red brick exteriors and hopping into apartments through open windows, or chewing through the walls.

“We’re infested with rats, roaches, mice,” she said. “It will be for the best if they tear down. It’s time.”

Beatty Development Group declined to comment on the project.

Working with Beatty is Mission First Housing Development, a nonprofit affordable housing developer; the Henson Development Co.; and Bank of America. The collaboration is called Perkins Point Partners.

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