Friday, March 23, 2018

The next mega TIF is right around the corner: Its name is PSO

Make no small plans, Daniel Burnham's famous exclamation in consideration of his world fair plans for Chicago have long become disputed (the architect may have never said this), trite (quoted way too often) and a symbol of gender stereotype (for the second half that states "they have no magic to stir men's blood).
Perkins/ Oldtown/Somerset planning area in context 

Yet, from time to time bigger is, in fact, better. One such case may be the idea of combining two eternally stalled plans, the ones for Oldtown/Somersetand for Perkins Homes.

In 2016 the city design review saw a presentation of an ambitious Oldtown plan which has gone nowhere since then.  At the time the development team consisted of the Beatty Development Group, Henson Development Co., Kevin Johnson's Commercial Group and Philadelphia-based Mission First Housing Group and included a mixed-income community with rental and for-sale homes, a park, a community center and a grocery store on the roughly 16 acres that are part of the original RFP  (which does not include the historic district area where the shops are still standing) and another 24 or so acres that the team is looking at to create a larger context for masterplanning that could eventually include as many as 1,100 new housing units, of tax credit affordable housing and market-rate homes, 1.0 million square feet of office space with medical offices linked to Hopkins physicians and 180,000 square feet of retail. The masterplan was presented by Ayers Saint Gross Architects Architects.

Perkins Homes, a large public housing complex of two story walks ups consists of 688 unit complex in 48 buildings on 17 acres of land and is wedged between what is now Albermarle Square, the Central Avenue corridor and Broadway in upper Fells Point.(The current number of units is provided by HABC as 629).  The project had been plagued by numerous complaints over the years about the generally poor quality of life in a complex which was created in response to the housing needs of post WW II America and is the oldest remaining public housing project in Baltimore. HABC had announced full demolition twice. HABC started working with residents and the City’s Planning Department on the Perkins Transformation Project since 2014. An earlier redevelopment proposal anticipated 1,100 units, of which 629 would have been heavily subsidized affordable units, alongside market-rate and moderate income homes. But that $170 million to $200 million  plan fell through. In 2016 Beatty Development with Mission was selected as as the new master developer. The high number of units in a new mixed income development is based on the notion that the number of current affordable units will be replaced 1:1 with affordable units but market rate and for-sale units will be added.

With Beatty Development, a partner in the Oldtown-Somerset and the Perkins project, and both areas located east of downtown, it is only logical to see the two projects in tandem. The new project is dubbed PSO (Perkins-Somerset-Oldtown by HABC which oversses the entire project.

The expansion allows to spread the new total number of housing units over a larger area, resulting in densities that are more acceptable to the existing residents and the surrounding communities. The combination of all sites has resulted in the creation of a development team that is now called PSO Housing Company, LLC, the joint venture largely has the same players as before: McCormack Baron Salazar, Beatty Development, Henson Development and Mission First. The master planning was done by Hord Coplan Macht. Cross Street Partners, headed up by William Struever, a familiar face in Baltimore from his time as CEO of Struever Brothers, Eccles and Rouse is part of the Beatty team as well. The overall project cost is given by HABC as $800 million. (The BBJ spoke of $1billion).

Upon request HABC provided an information package in which it breaks down the new total proposed housing as follows:
The Housing Plan will replace all 629 units from Perkins Homes in a new mixed income and mixed use community of 1,345 total units. The Planned Unit Mix will include a total of 652 deeply affordable units and a total of 417 market rate units on [all] housing sites, as well as an additional 276 affordable units at 60% Area Median Income.
The anticipated redevelopment scale
Converting "projects" into mixed use developments in which affordable units blend with "market rate" rentals, and sometimes also homeownership units, is a popular medicine against the stigmatizing look of old style public housing. Yet, the privatization of public housing has also raised many concerns. A specific problem of the earlier Perkins redevelopment concepts had been the density of some 1,300 units built soley on the Perkins Homes land area for a good mix of affordable, deeply affordable and market rate.  The desired total count can be much easier achieved on a larger site. This is the project description on the Baltimore Housing website:
Located within minutes of Downtown Baltimore and the thriving waterfront, Perkins Somerset Oldtown (PSO) is a community of 5,939 residents in 2,122 households. The target public housing site— Perkins Homes—is currently home to 587 families in 629 units. Built in 1942, Perkins Homes has long outlived its useful life such that complete demolition is now necessary. The Plan encompasses two additional development sites, Somerset and Oldtown, both of which are situated at the north end of the PSO Transformation Zone. Somerset was a public housing site that opened for occupancy in 1943 on an 8.6 acre, rectangular parcel of land in East Baltimore, bounded by Monument, Central, Orleans, and Aisquith Streets, just two blocks west of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The 257 homes were built in two-story buildings along nine courts, and were razed in 2008-2009. Proximal to the Somerset site is Oldtown, which is bounded by Ensor, Forrest, East, and Orleans Streets. Oldtown was once the site of Bel Air Market, a vibrant pedestrian market, which closed in 1996 and was razed in 2002. The long-term vision of the PSO Transformation Plan is to transform Perkins Homes and the surrounding community into a Community of Choice that is inviting, promotes resident pride and unity among neighbors, and is integrated into the surrounding area—a new model for a 21st century urban neighborhood.
Somerset Homes in 2002 (ArchPlan photo)
Fears of displacement may persist, even with the promised 1:1 one replacement rate for affordable housing and the now larger opportunity to create the replacement units. The other large scale east Baltimore development project nearby, EBDI, has left a bad taste with many that criticize the massive relocation with which that project had started.  As is obvious from the project description, the count of the in 2002 demolished public housing units of the Somerset development is not included in the 1:1 replacement.

Before anything happens, funding is a big issue. For one, the City has applied for a $30 million Choice Neighborhood grant which is not yet decided and subject to Washington budget shenanigans.  According to the Housing Department other funding would come from federal, state and local grants, a tax increment financing package and private equity and mortgages. Baltimore has a rich history of securing large amounts of federal money for redevelopment of public houses. When it demolished the large high-rise complexes of Lafayette Courts, Lexington Terrace, Murphy Homes and Flag-House Court, Baltimore secured more federal HOPE VI money than any other jurisdiction. It also diminished its affordable housing stock significantly when each former public housing unit was replaced by a mix of market-rate and affordable units and some home-ownership units as well.

Another funding source is expected to be a large TIF. HABC states that the amount has not yet been determined but the BBJ reported "that it is expected to be $250 million". HABC states that it expects the TIF application to be submitted by mid-April. The TIF would fund public infrastructure, such as roads, sidewalks and sewage system, and a school. The tax generators, needed to repay the TIF money, will be the market rate housing, as well as the commercial components.
Perkins phasing plan: Starting with new units

The old Perkins Homes project was embedded into a complex process of review and discussion among a great number of stakeholders, agencies, residents of Perkins Homes and surrounding community associations. It isn't clear yet, how the participation process will be restructured with this now much larger project, and how the existing participants will be informed of the new approach, and how and when the project will be submitted for design review by the new UDAAP "roundtable".

One big question will be phasing and the sequence of demolition and reconstruction and whether the project really begins with replacement units on the blank slate of the Somerset site, as the phasing plan indicates, or with the demolition of units at Perkins as some may fear. Baltimoreans can rightly be afraid of anything that starts with demolition because too many projects never went beyond that stage.

Make no small plans: In the saga of Baltimore's "black butterfly" and "white L" (describing the Baltimore map of inequity) this plan has the potential of being a giant step forward to creating a East Baltimore that is no longer a disinvested enclave east of downtown but a vibrant community that includes affordability and is connected to downtown, Harbor East and Johns Hopkins. With this plan Beatty Development can prove that it is not only a developer for affluence (like in Harbor East and HarborPoint or in Charles North) but also a partner in making the entire area whole. After the many years in which Oldtown, Somerset and Perkins Homes languished in limbo, this plan promises to be the urgently needed breakthrough.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

BBJ: Developers, city plot $1 billion plan to transform 200 acres near downtown
Baltimore SUN: Perkins Homes Redevelopment
2015 City Paper story about Perkins Homes
The Old Perkins Website at Baltimore Housing has been updated: It is now called the Perkins, Somerset, Old Town Transformation Plan and includes this PDF

Related on this blog:
Old Town - from ruins to glory?
Perkins Homes: Opportunity or Displacement?

The new housing community will encompass 48.5% subsidized units, 20.5% additional affordable units (LlHTC), and 31% market-rate rental housing. This housing mix will enable current and new residents to live in an economically-integrated community offering high-quality housing and exceptional amenities that are woven into the fabric of the neighborhood. In the revitalized community, doing better will not have to mean moving up and out, but will provide families with options for remaining, growing in place, investing, and improving their lives 
Residents have the right to remain and be offered a one-time direct move into a newlyconstructed unit. In addition, they will be offered at least two other permanent replacement housing options—a tenant-based Section 8 voucher or a move to a comparable public housing unit at another HABC development. Residents will work closely with relocation counselors, who will help residents make the best decision for themselves and their family. To facilitate this relocation strategy, the housing development will be broken down into six phases, starting with parcels outside of the Perkins Homes development. 
(from the HABC brochure on the website).

Planning area (from HABC brochure)

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