ANNAPOLIS, MD. - A cultural landmark for African-Americans in Maryland, the Wiley H. Bates High School sat vacant for more than 20 years. Now a $14.4 million redevelopment effort has injected new life into the former classrooms by creating the Residences at Wiley H. Bates Heritage Park, which offers 71 apartments for low-income seniors.
The school’s namesake, Wiley H. Bates, was born into slavery but became one of Annapolis’ wealthiest citizens after Emancipation. Built in 1933 on land donated by Bates, the school quickly became a cultural center for the county’s African-Americans.
“It was the only high school for African-Americans in the county prior to desegregation. The best students graduated from there and went on to become community leaders,” said Gerald Joseph, vice president of real estate at developer Community Preservation and Development Corp. (CPDC). “After desegregation in 1966, it was converted to an integrated middle school. By 1981, it was considered surplus and closed.”
The school was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. A year later, Arundel Community Development Services (ACDS), the county-designated project manager, began planning to revive the property by creating affordable housing, recreational and educational facilities for youth and seniors, and an enduring memorial to the African-American community’s heritage.
ACDS chose CPDC and Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures to develop the residential component of the project.
“The community decided very early on that the classrooms would be the most adaptable to apartments,” said Joseph. He explained that the large rooms’ ample windows and high ceilings made for “incredibly open, bright units” and that their central corridor offered “straight, easy access for people with limited mobility.”
However, “the rest of the space couldn’t be converted into apartments without drastic changes,” said Joseph.
Accordingly, ACDS split the site into three separate redevelopment projects. More than half of the building is occupied by seniors housing. ACDS developed the rest into a Boys and Girls Club and a seniors center, which is managed by the county’s Department of Aging.
Extensive rehabilitation work, along with the very low incomes of targeted residents, required CPDC to put together a variety of private and public funding sources. Funding included an $8.4 million construction loan from SunTrust Bank; a $611,789 permanent first mortgage from PNC Bank; $6.7 million in LIHTC equity through Hudson Housing Capital; and $608,110 in deferred developer fees.
The development also received $2.2 million in subordinate financing from ACDS and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as $4.2 million in federal and state historic preservation tax credits. One unique aspect of the financing structure was a move by CPDC’s nonprofit real estate arm to purchase the state historic tax credits, yielding approximately $700,000 in additional funds. The Housing Commission of Anne Arundel County awarded project-based Sec. 8 contracts for all 71 apartments.
“There was a lot of attention paid to marrying the past with the present,” said Hilary Morgan, director of development and communications at CPDC. “The original lockers are across from the current mailboxes, and there are old photographs from the school yearbook. So you actually have a picture of kids getting their books out of the school lockers right next to the actual lockers that were there.”
About two-thirds of the residents are Bates alumni, who appreciate such details as well as the on-site museum honoring the school’s history.
“They have remarkable community spirit,” said Joseph. “It’s really gratifying to see how much they appreciate living in their old school.”
Additional project information, as provided in application by the nominator.
Q. Why does the nominated project deserve to be recognized based on the award criteria of this contest?
A. Wiley H. Bates High School was the first freestanding secondary school for all African American children in Annapolis, Md. and surrounding Anne Arundel County. The school’s namesake, Wiley H. Bates, was born into slavery but, after emancipation became one of Annapolis’ wealthiest citizens. The school opened in 1933, and grew into the cultural center for all African Americans in the County—a place where they could attend social, theatrical, and sporting events, and even night school. After desegregation, the school was converted to a middle school and in 1981, it was abandoned. A hulking structure with no clear future, the school lay vacant for more than 20 years.
Bates was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. Beginning in 1995, the county-designated project manager, Arundel Community Development Services, Inc. (ACDS), developed a plan for the adaptive reuse of the school—it would again be a center for the community, providing affordable housing, recreational, and educational facilities for youth and seniors, and an enduring memorial to the community’s heritage.
Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC) and Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures, LLC were selected by ACDS to develop the former classroom wings of the building into The Residences at Wiley H. Bates Heritage Park, a 71-unit affordable housing community for seniors, plus an exhibit space devoted to the history of the school and its community. Thirty-six of the units are restricted to residents earning up to 40 percent of the area median income (AMI), and the balance is restricted to residents at 50 percent of the AMI. Eight of the units are fully handicapped accessible.
Completed in the summer of 2006, the renovation of the property preserved the building’s historic character while also creating an inviting and accessible environment for residents and users. The school was renamed Wiley H. Bates Heritage Park and formally reopened on Sept. 7, 2006, in an all-day community celebration with bands, banners, politicians, and tears of joy from hundreds of Bates alumni who had lived “to see this great day.”
In addition to The Residences, the components of the new facility include:
- The Annapolis Senior Activity Center, the largest senior center in the county.
- The Bates Boys and Girls Club, the new regional facility located in the old gymnasium and cafeteria space, providing services to more than 500 youth per day.
- The Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center, which is the most historic portion of the building and home to the Bates Legacy Center, a museum dedicated to honoring the faculty and students of the school and its namesake.
- Memorial Courtyard, designed to replicate the look and feel of the 1950s, complete with the original flagpole and boot scraper. Both the Legacy Center and Memorial Courtyard are open to the public.
Q. How does this project represent an innovative solution to a specific development challenge?
A. The historic nature of the building and its deteriorated condition, along with the very low incomes of targeted residents, required CPDC to secure seven sources of permanent funding. Private sector financing consists of a permanent first mortgage from PNC Bank, a construction loan from SunTrust Bank, a bridge loan from Enterprise Community Loan Fund, and tax credit equity syndicated through Hudson Housing Capital. The public sector financing includes an allocation of 9 percent low-income housing tax credits, a private foundation grant, and secondary loans from ACDS and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, plus federal and state historic preservation tax credits. In a unique twist, the state historic tax credits were syndicated to CPDC. Because CPDC owes no state tax, it could receive the full amount of the tax credit as a refund, and pay 100 cents on the dollar for the credits. A total of $14.4 million in funding was secured.