Neighborhoods meet with public officials on Pedestal Gardens rebuild

pedestal gardens front entrance
Photograph by Real Estate Exposures

Over the summer representatives from BHCA, Madison Park Improvement Association and Historic Marble Hill have met with city and state housing authorities and elected officials to make the case for rejecting the current developer’s plan for renovating Pedestal Gardens apartments.

Pedestal Gardens is a collection of four properties built in the mid-sixties that house low-income families in the Madison Park and Marble Hill neighborhoods as well as apartments on Bolton Hill’s western border on Eutaw Place and McMechen Street.

In 2016 The Community Builders (TCB), a Boston-based developer and owner of some 14,000 units of affordable housing, acquired the properties and announced plans for a major do-over. TCB said they would create a healthy mix of market-rate townhouses to encourage home ownership while renovating rent-regulated apartments for working families and subsidized units for low-income tenants.

The plan presented recently by TCB to city officials, however, did not include new units for purchase and, in the opinion of experts in the community, made it likely that the new version of Pedestal Gardens would be much like the current properties — concentrated occupancy by subsidized tenants.

Led by Madison Park’s association president and vice president, Antoinette Peele and Nicholas Cohen, as well as by Marble Hill’s Marion Blackwell and BHCA President Amy Sheridan, the three associations argued that without displacing existing tenants, the developer could, with more creative designs, provide additional units for homeowners and an economically diverse project.

The group met with state housing and community development commissioner Jake Day and several other Department of Housing and Community Development officials at the home of BHCA member Charlie Duff. Duff and developer David Bramble, who lives in Madison Park, had a local architect produce drawings showing how greater density and more imaginative layouts could produce a dense and diverse set of housing units without displacement.

In August a similar group of neighborhood representatives met with city housing commissioner Alice Kennedy to cover the same concerns. TCB expects substantial financial and other support for the Pedestal Gardens restoration. They paid $5 million to acquire the properties before the pandemic stalled their processes.

Representing BHCA at the meetings, besides Sheridan and Duff, were Lee Tawney, Bill Hamilton and at earlier meetings, David Nyweide. Earlier meetings involved State Sen. Antonio Hayes and Del. Melissa Wells, whose district include the neighborhoods.