TAKOMA PARK – When Annie Scott moved back into her Takoma Park Sligo View apartment building earlier this month, she thought the new owners would just do a regular paint job, but she was pleasantly surprised.
Scott’s apartment had a “total makeover,” she said, with new appliances, floors and kitchen cabinets.
Scott, 28, was one of dozens of Marylanders, particularly in Takoma Park and Baltimore, who have moved into newly renovated low-income housing with “green” features.
Sligo View was one of several buildings renovated by Takoma Park Preservation, an organization that aims to provide more affordable housing for Montgomery County residents. The other apartments include Merrimac Gardens and The Crossroads at Flower, both in Takoma Park.
But the liberal enclave is not the only jurisdiction thinking green in low-income neighborhoods.
In East Baltimore, Preston Place, a neighborhood of newly renovated low-income single family homes, is leading the revitalization efforts in the Oliver neighborhood, where many houses are boarded up and abandoned.
The recent innovations in green living at both locations attracted public figures such as U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, state Delegate Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, and Gov. Martin O’Malley during ribbon-cutting ceremonies in July and October.
The apartments in Takoma Park include many environmentally friendly touches: Energy Star appliances like stoves and refrigerators, showerheads and faucets that help conserve water, and native landscaping suitable for the area’s soil.
Preston Place apartments feature lighting fixtures and appliances that are also Energy Star certified, according to its construction company’s Web site.
Both Preston Place and the Takoma Park apartments are a combination of both public and private partnerships. In both cases, the call for better housing began at the grassroots community level.
Sligo View resident Crystal Pittman and a group of neighbors decided to take action after the previous landlord decided to sell the apartments so they could be converted to condominiums.
They approached Montgomery Housing Partnership, a nonprofit organization that works with other groups to provide affordable housing, and were able to save their homes at the eleventh hour.
At the time, Pittman was a single mother of a teenage son who was college bound and she could only afford to live in low-income housing.
“I was scared to death,” Pittman said shortly before the ribbon cutting ceremony.
In addition to fearing that she would be priced out of her apartment, Pittman said the quality of life was not good. The New York native dubbed the old cabinets “New York cabinets,” because they were dirty and dingy, Pittman said.
Pest infestation was also a problem, said Scott.
Now that her home has been renovated, Pittman said she “loves” it.
Scott was able to temporarily move into a one-bedroom apartment while her two-bedroom apartment down the hall went through the final stages of the renovation. She also is looking forward to spending Christmas with her 12-year-old daughter in their new home.
One of the features Scott liked was the call box located outside the building, so her daughter can easily reach her.
Preston Place’s transformation came after one of its residents, Angela Dawson, and her children died in a 2002 fire because Dawson was trying to keep drug dealers off her property.
After Dawson’s death a community organization named BUILD joined in the efforts of the six churches in the neighborhood to purchase some of the neglected housing in the area.
The community raised $10 million to purchase 164 buildings and 141 vacant lots in 2005-2006.
The first set of newly renovated low-income homes has virtually sold out, Project Manager Courtney League said.
In addition to building homes, BUILD and its partners are also trying to create a family friendly neighborhood by buying the alcohol license of one establishment.
One of the misconceptions about green living is that it is expensive, said Montgomery Housing Partnership Project Manager Stephanie Roodman.
However, Preston Place resident Vivian Davis will said green living has reduced her energy bills.
In addition to saving money, Davis, who is married with a 5-month-old daughter, liked that the revitalization project was Christian-based, the homes had a lot of space, and that everything was so positive, she said.
League said Preston Place’s new residents were “pioneers,” for they were willing to be a part of the vision to make the neighborhood a safe place to raise a family.