Glenarden Apartments closure prompts safety, redevelopment questions -- Gazette.Net







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Glenarden police officials say they have noticed the impact of shuttered portions of Glenarden Apartments, a complex available to low-income residents.

“When the place was open completely, we had a lot of domestic violence calls and a lot of assaults,” Police Chief Phillip O’Donnell said. “But we’ve had a lot more over the last month, from a Chinese food delivery driver shot and seriously wounded to a robbery by the bus stop and a couple of burglaries. And we’ve had folks coming from the outside and stealing copper from the vacant buildings.”

City officials said they are concerned that when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development completely closes the affordable housing facility at the end of March, the property will become a blight on the community and a drain on public resources.

HUD spokeswoman Lisa Wolfe said her agency announced in 2011 that it would be closing the more than 500-unit facility in two phases, citing repeated failed inspections in one of the buildings.

That building, Glenarden I, was vacated in December 2011, while Glenarden II, which passed inspections, was allowed to stay open until this spring, she said.

Wolfe said residents were given vouchers to seek subsidized housing elsewhere in January and relocation specialists in conjunction with other local housing agencies are assisting the estimated 190 tenants in finding new housing.

According to statistics provided by the Glenarden Police Department, there were 24 crimes reported at Glenarden Apartments in 2011, including 12 violent crimes, compared to 20 crimes in 2012, including two violent crimes. O’Donnell said that while overall, crime has decreased, property crimes like thefts and burglaries have been on the rise since the closure of Glenarden I.

O’Donnell said that, once closed, the facility will enter foreclosure and, unless purchased by another agency or a developer, will become the city’s responsibility to patrol and maintain.

“The thing we’re concerned about is when the place closes, how will we maintain it?” O’Donnell said. “How are we going to keep people from going in and squatting and dumping [trash on the property]?”

O’Donnell said his department has 12 officers responsible for covering the city’s 1.3 square miles and around 6,000 residents.

Alexis Yeoman, spokeswoman for the Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development, said the county has the first opportunity to buy the property. She said that through her agency’s Redevelopment Authority, the county plans to acquire the complex, demolish it and “get it ready for redevelopment,” although she could not provide a time frame for demolition or new development plans.

But City Councilwoman Elaine Carter (Ward 2), whose ward includes the apartment complex, said that if the next owner doesn’t plan to renovate the property, the motto for taking the buildings down should be, “The sooner, the better.”

“We don’t want it to become an eyesore,” Carter said. “...It will just create a very big problem for our security....We’ll have to make sure it doesn’t become a dumping ground, so it could run a whole gamut of drain on our city finances.”