Developers, Coppin Heights CDC partnering totransform two West Baltimore apartment complexes

Two private developers are partnering with a West Baltimore community development corporation to overhaul a pair of apartment complexes about a mile apart on the city’s west side, rehabbing hundreds of units while reserving them as dedicated affordable housing in the process.

The project includes a $41.8 million transformation of Rosemont Gardens, to be renamed Midtown at Coppin Heights, and a$39.6 million transformation of the Gwynn Crest Apartments just off Hilton Parkway, to be re-branded as Parkway Overlook, said James Riggs of Osprey Property Co.

“From a public policy perspective, both of these properties are older, require some significant upgrades to extend their use of life,” said Riggs, vice president for Osprey, “and we thought that we would be able to do that successfully as well as preserving the units as affordable housing moving forward.”

The Annapolis-based firm will serve as the lead developer while partnering with the nonprofit Coppin Heights Community Development Corp. and Bel Air-based private developer Pax Edwards. The entities will form separate LLCs for each project, with plans to “de-densify” both complexes and add new amenities after purchasing them from Pikesville-based Blue Ocean Realty.
The property sales are expected to close later this year for Rosemont Gardens and in the first quarter of 2021 for Gwynn Crest, with renovations starting within a month thereafter.
Rosemont Gardens, a strip of multi-family buildings along Winchester Street, will be reduced from 228 to 199 units, with demolition creating space for a new leasing office, fitness center and community room, as well as larger three- and four-bedroom apartments. Gwynn Crest, a C-shaped complex of low-rise buildings, will also be reduced from 198 to 180 apartments, with some demolition taking place toadd brand new apartments as well as a new community center on the property bordering Leakin Park.

Both projects will bring in contractor teams from around the region, with Columbia-based Harkins Builders serving as the general contractor, Ellicott City’s Architecture by Design as the architect of record, Phoenix-based Site Resources as the civil engineer and Ellicott City’s Pando Alliance as the sustainability consultant.
Riggs said Osprey began exploring both opportunities early last year and now plans to finance the projects in part using “twinned” tiers — 4% and 9% — of state Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. About half of the funding for each project will come from LIHTC equity, with the remainder funded by a mix of private debt,developer equity, the city’s HOME program and state rental housing and Rental Housing Works programs.

Coppin Heights CDC and Osprey previously teamed up on the $20 million Walbrook Mill project near Coppin State University — they also partnered with the nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services — to convert the former Walbrook Mill & Lumber Co. into a mixed-use residential and commercial hub. The 65 new apartments there began to lease out in March, about a month after a new Truist bank branch opened on the ground floor, and more plans are in the works for a food hall run by the owners of Connie’s Chicken & Waffles.

Gary Rodwell, executive director of the CDC, said his nonprofit and Osprey observed after redeveloping Walbrook Mill that many of the new tenants were from the 21216 and 21217 ZIP codes in West Baltimore, indicating demand for new housing from existing neighbors.

“For us, that’s exactly in keeping with our philosophy, because we want to do development without displacement,” Rodwell said. “We know that there are many hardworking families who are creditworthy in our community and would take advantage if there are opportunities so that they wouldn’t have to move away.”

He emphasized the importance of reserving the newly rehabbed units as dedicated affordable apartments, which come with income restrictions, but noted adding new amenities — for example, fitness areas and community spaces — is crucial for improving quality of life there and hopefully attracting more investment.

“We have to take it upon ourselves as a community to find those partnerships [with developers] that bring those types of amenities back to the neighborhood.” Riggs said investing to rehabilitate housing stock is just one piece of the puzzle in revitalizing neglected areas. But “by coming in and investing in those projects,we’re able to bring the property back up to a stable point, and have quality housing in a community that desperately lacks quality housing,” he said.
Ethan McLeod
Associate Editor
Baltimore Business Journal