Astor Court Apartments

February 2024 / Case Studies / Community Development, Education, Mission-Related Investment
Exterior of Astor Court Apartment building.

Quality teachers are critical to improving educational outcomes of Baltimore City public schoolchildren, but city schools face strong competition in recruiting and retaining them. Two decades ago, the Abell Foundation saw a need to help attract new teachers to Baltimore and support them in their first years of the profession. Abell combined its commitments to education, community development, and mission-related investments in a unique effort to provide teachers with affordable housing and a supportive community of fellow educators. In 2005, Astor Court Apartments became one of the first purpose-built housing projects for teachers in the country.

Vacant building with boarded-up windows.

A vacant Astor Court Apartments.

For nearly 10 years prior, Astor Court Apartments sat vacant and open to the elements a mere six blocks from the Johns Hopkins University campus in Charles Village. Eventually, the building was foreclosed upon for delinquent taxes and accumulated water bills. Working together with the new owner and developer, Abell helped layer 13 sources of tiered financing, including city, state, and federal historic tax credits and loans to keep the rent structure appropriate for beginning teacher salaries. Abell also provided credit enhancements, flexible capital to close financing gaps, and staff support to overcome construction obstacles and enhance connections to schools for leasing.

The building, which dates from the 1920s, received an exterior face-lift and interior renovation. With attention to restoring the building’s historic elements – including large retail windows, marble steps, and original tile floors – the developers reconfigured three residential floors into 36 spacious and attractively designed apartments with modern amenities and created four first-floor commercial spaces. Since opening in 2005, the building has maintained full occupancy with a make-up of approximately two-thirds teachers and one-third other professionals and graduate-level students.

Astor Court became a catalyst for similar developments in Baltimore. In the intervening years, Baltimore’s Seawall Development Corporation brought award-winning Miller’s Court and Union Mill to market, proving not only the economic viability of the teacher housing model but also its attractiveness to tenants and design experts alike.

“Astor Court was really the first example in Baltimore of this kind of product,” said Seawall Development’s Thibault Manekin. “We learned a lot from how they put the project together and what it could mean for a neighborhood.”

Interior of apartment lobby.

Interior of Astor Court Apartments.

Astor Court Apartments sold in early 2023 at top value through competitive bids, fully repaying all outstanding loans and generating a significant return to further Abell’s mission. The new owner was selected based in part on their commitment to maintaining housing for teachers. Astor Court achieved multiple strategic purposes – the redevelopment project created quality, affordable housing for new teachers; repurposed a vacant building into a productive tax-paying property; and breathed new life into the Old Goucher College historic district, spurring additional investment in the area.


Photos courtesy of Astor Court Apartments.