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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Ground broken on Berlin’s Cannery Village complex

(June 4, 2015) It took nearly a decade and dozens partnerships at the local and state level, but Berlin finally broke ground on the Flower Street affordable housing complex Cannery Village last week.
With discussions of the project taking place as far back as 2007, the final plan that emerged calls for 44 single-family “workforce” homes for people who make less than $55,000 a year.
Two-bedroom, one-bathroom duplexes start at $400 a month, while the larger four-bedroom, two-bathroom, single-family homes top out at $900 a month.
Cannery also will include a “clear path to homeownership” program that will allow renters to buy their homes after 15 years.
The mayor and Town Council last November approved a pilot agreement with developer Osprey Property Company that included a 40-year tax break on the property as long as the community continued the rent-to-own program. The final measures, including a public works agreement and a stormwater pact, were passed by the council in March.
Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said the rent-to-own concept has proven successful on the elsewhere in the state.
“I think it’s very appropriate that Berlin is the first community on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to offer this housing opportunity,” he said at the groundbreaking ceremony last Friday. “I think it couldn’t be a more appropriate community to show that it works and to lead the way to another path to home ownership. We’re extremely excited and we’re looking forward to a very successful partnership.”
From the time of the project’s inception to the actual groundbreaking, Williams said the atmosphere in the town has changed from “what can we do … to what can’t we do?”
“Just like the town in the 10 years that has transpired, much has changed in the town of Berlin and so has this project,” he said. “As it’s changed and evolved, I believe it’s been well worth the wait … what we have today is the best of all the ideas that have evolved over time.”
Osprey Developer Andrew Hanson said the Department of Housing and Community Development provided a portion of the funding that made the project possible, adding that Wells Fargo “played a vital role in taking the DHCD state and federal resources and turning those into the equity to allow us to rent the units.”
The development will include a community center with a library, fitness facility and computer hub, and the units will feature Energy Star construction and additional conservation features designed to lower monthly utility bills.
Additionally, Hanson said Habitat for Humanity of Worcester County would help “educate and train the tenants” on the process behind the rent-to-own program.
“Although some might not want to buy, while they’re here they’re have the benefit of beautiful, safe, affordable new … homes that are well-built and energy efficient,” he said.
The developer also praised local lawmakers, including Sen. Jim Mathias, for pushing the project while DHCD faced a “risk of having its funds taken away.”
“Being someone who was born and raised on the shore, a mere 20 miles from here, I’m so thrilled that we’ve been able to continue to do deals, specifically this project, because I feel like often times … the western shore gets maybe a bigger piece of the pie than I’d like to see,” he said. “We’re thrilled to have investment both from the private sector, from the state, from the town [and] from others in making this amazing project.”
Mathias singled out the mayor, as well as the Berlin councilmembers in attendance, Elroy Brittingham, Lisa Hall and Troy Purnell, for their work on the project.
“This is what happens when you work together,” Mathias said. “This is what it’s all about.”
Hanson said Cannery has already received “an immense amount of interest.”
“We’re really excited to offer these to folks who already live and work in the community and may live in … less-than-ideal substandard housing,” he said. “We’d like folks to move in September, October, November, December, January as we’re done and make this their home for the next 15 years and then buy it and become truly homeowners at that point and stay here and pay taxes to the town and have it give back. We’re really excited.”
The first units will be available in September. For more information, call 443-716-2576.