Housing Development Anchors Renewal

Jul 16, 2012

Pennsylvania Avenue on Baltimore’s Westside was once the city’s heart for jazz and blues music. But starting in the 1960’s, Pennsylvania Avenue experienced decades of economic decline.

Thanks to a recent investment by the Woda Group, the nation’s fifth-largest developer of affordable housing, Pennsylvania Avenue’s fortunes have begun to rebound. Recognizing the value for working families in its proximity to the subway – and hence to jobs – the Woda Group looked to build affordable housing on a vacant Pennsylvania Avenue lot that had once been home to a jazz club, but had since been taken over by the city.

Work on the project got underway before the financial crisis of 2008. When the crisis happened, Woda’s original investors walked away from the project. But Bank of America had been involved in the project and stood by its commitment to see it through, providing $2 million in construction and permanent financing to the Woda Group and keeping the project alive.

“When government and private resources come together, good things happen for communities,” says Kevin Bell, Woda’s senior vice president. “Neighborhood revitalization cannot happen without high quality housing which people can afford.”

The new development – named Penn Square Apartments – opened in 2011. Penn Square includes 91 garden-style apartments, available to families earning between 40 percent and 60 percent of the Baltimore area’s median income. In addition to easy access to public transit, the apartments also feature high-speed internet connections, a computer lab and learning center, and on-site daycare, features that will help Penn Square’s residents advance economically.

“Developments like Penn Square can provide safe, decent housing for families, but they can also help entire neighborhoods to revitalize,” says Joyce Moskovitz, senior vice president, community development banking, Bank of America. “By offering working families access to transportation, child care, and other essential services, housing developments can help address some of the obstacles that stand in the way of good jobs.”

At Penn Square’s opening in 2011, the Baltimore City Council Office of the President presented the Woda Group with a resolution for “working closely with the community to create a neighborhood
project that meets the needs of the community.”

Today Penn Square is fully occupied and helping to anchor the neighborhood’s ongoing recovery.

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