Fort Cumberland Homes, a subsidized housing complex that sits on a stretch of ground between Lamont Street, West Oldtown Road and Industrial Boulevard, is due for an extreme makeover, a major project that has been in the works for a number of years but now seems bound for completion.

The brick row houses were constructed in 1960 and have been home to hundreds of families over the years. 

Staff writer Greg Larry recently reported that funding has been secured to begin a nearly $20 million renovation there. That information came from Steve Kesner, who heads the Cumberland Housing Group.

The blocks of two-story buildings are owned and operated by the city Housing Authority.

Kesner said the project, involving more than three years of planning, is expected to start this year, with a projected completion of December 2021.

A new name will accompany the upgrades, with Fort Cumberland Homes to be known as River Bend Court, Kesner said, a fitting moniker given its proximity to the North Branch of the Potomac.

There will be 77 residential units, including four physically accessible units that meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Kesner said there will be new kitchens, bathrooms, flooring, lighting, heating, air conditioning and new utility services. The work will include new windows, doors, siding, roofs and porches.

Three units will be converted into a community center, computer lab and office for the complex. Each home will have laundry connections, along with an onsite laundry. Big plans, for sure.

Fort Cumberland Homes is administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and rent is calculated on 30% of a family’s adjusted gross income.

Kesner said the project would not be possible without a new federal funding option known as Rental Assistance Demonstration. In 2015, Fort Cumberland Homes was identified as a candidate and the financial planning process got underway.

The total project cost of $19.34 million is being financed by or through the Maryland Community Development Administration, Stratford Capital Investments, First United Bank and the Cumberland Housing Group.

The development team includes the Cumberland Housing Group as the developer and general partner; Harbel Inc., a division of the Belt Group, as the general contractor; EADS Architects; East Hills Engineering; and the Chesapeake Community Advisors as consultants.

The structures have been maintained and improved over the years. We cannot narrow it down, but at some point trusses were installed to raise the original flat roofs.

The approximately $260,000 final cost per unit for the upcoming mega makeover raises eyebows, especially with taxpayer money on the table. One of our readers told us she wished she could live in a $200,000-plus house for a fraction of what she must pay her landlord monthly in rent. We trust that the quality of materials and workmanship are such that they will last another six decades.

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