Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mulberry at Park: Affordable Housing in the Westside

Mulberry Street from Greene Street to Cathedral Street is a difficult place to build, maybe even harder than West North Avenue (The Gateway Homes), Greenmount Avenue (The Lillian Jones Homes) or Howard Street (The M building at Howard and Madison) where other recent affordable housing projects were successfully completed. This section of the Westside is impacted by abandoned structures and vacancy on the entire block to the north of the project which has has not a single occupied building in it except for the Current Gallery which is open two days a week. Mulberry Street is also a narrow canyon of relentless traffic where curbs have been cut back close to the houses to make room for three lanes of traffic trying to get as fast as possible from the highway to nowhere ending at Greene Street to the Orleans Street Viaduct beginning after the St Paul Street signal. Another housing project planned a bit further west between Paca and Eutaw Street has been stalled for years over an impasse on cost and design.
Mulberry at Park: 68 affordable apartments now complete
(Photo: Philipsen)

It was therefore quite a surprise when Enterprise set out to knock out several vacant buildings on the south-side of Mulberry across the long since shuttered once famous Marticks restaurant and a condemned dilapidated one story parking garage. The project broke ground in July 2015, a few months after the unrest. It is now complete.

Marks Thomas architects selected a conventional brick facade design with paired vertical double hung windows that matching design elements found on still intact and active buildings on the south side of Mulberry east and west of the project. As a result the now finished building looks largely as if it had always been there.

The opening the building was marred by the relentless din of a bank of compressors pumping sewage from the various temporary surface pipes crisscrossing the area back into the pipes under Mulberry.
Barrels, sewage pipe and traffic: The public roam could use an upgrade
(Photo: Philipsen)

The 68 units, 34 one-bedroom, 27 two-bedroom and 7 three-bedroom apartments. which cost $22.3 million to build are limited to residents earning 60% of AMI (Average Median Income) or less. Per an earlier Enterprise press release Bank of America provided $15.8 million in construction financing, tax credit equity and permanent financing. Additional financing sources include the State of Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development with $1.5 million and Baltimore City with $870,000.
The rear is the southside
The units are arranged in a u-shape with the open side of the U in the back facing south with a deck sitting on the plinth of a service and parking garage. The rear of the building is clad in vinyl.
Habitat America provides on-site resident services.

Maybe the new apartment residents won't have to look very long across a scene of abandonment. BDC has undertaken several attempts of bringing the 400 block of Howard Street back to life. Negotiations with a few developers that would bring a bakery, a beer garden and more apartments and shops are still underway at the Development Corporation.

Meanwhile, 153 market rate apartments just north of the decrepit block are rapidly moving towards completion, another undertaking by the Time Group which also did 520 Park, apartments and the now popular Mount Vernon Market.  Time to look at the streets on the Westside as "complete streets" that support the investments in housing and provide a friendlier, more walkable environment.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Today, Feb 16 is Housing Advocacy Day in Annapolis
Enterprise project sheet


Rendering of the project at groundbreaking
(Marks Thomas Architects)