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Reservoir Hill Celebrates Beginning To The End Of Blight

After months of preparations and years of planning, work is underway to rebuild the last nine vacant homes in the 2200-block of Callow Avenue in Reservoir Hill. It is one of the last two blocks in the heart of the West Baltimore neighborhood that has not seen revitalization until now.

Work on the houses began in June, but officials celebrated the construction Tuesday. 

The houses –to go on the market in November – are expected to be among the most energy efficient in the city.

“From the initial construction in how we are insulating the building, as well as the HVAC system that’s going to be used as well as the appliances that are going to be installed,” said Roscoe Johnson, executive director of the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation, the project’s developer.

Attracting investment to Callow has not been easy. The houses—at more than 3,000 square feet the size of a single family home in the suburbs—had been vacant for years. They were falling apart, with missing windows and roofs that had caved in or were on the verge of it.  The cost to renovate each home will be $420,000. 

The homes being built will have four to six bedrooms, depending on the floor plan.  When construction is complete in early 2016, the properties will go on the market for approximately $240,000. 

Mark Sissman, president of Healthy Neighborhoods, said a combination of government grants and bank loans is helping to keep the purchase price down.

“We want to keep it affordable for a working family,” he said. “If you’re not carrying a lot of debt, you can afford to borrow roughly three times what you earn.”

Johnson said people are already interested in buying.

“In terms of sales, we have already pre-qualified five homeowners for the nine units so far,” he added.

Neighborhood officials say they hope the construction in the 2200 block of Callow Ave. will carry over to the 2300 block where the last vestiges of blight are located.

“I think as these houses take shape, maybe we’ll do more houses and maybe other people will just be stimulated enough to do more houses,” said Rick Gwynallen, associate director of Reservoir Hill Improvement Council.