Upon completion, the project will serve as “the largest affordable housing project in DC,” said Reverend Michael Kelley, the pastor and leader of the project. “The bad news is that no one else is doing this type of thing,” he added. The reason for a lack of affordable housing developments in the District might be due to the clamor that these types of undertakings tend to cause within the community. St. Martins serves as the perfect example: when some of the neighboring residents discovered what was being constructed on the corner of Summit and T streets, a massive amount of lawyering commenced; they found a way to get an old convent, which would have been destroyed to build the apartment complex, classified a “Historic Building” with the Historical Preservation Society, effectively halting the development process. According to Reverend Kelley, some of the neighbors had a problem with “greed, race and class.”
Most of those community problems have been assuaged thanks to some tricky engineering and cunning design strategies by project architect Grimm & Parker and development manager NorthStar Consultants, who found a way to include the now historic convent (pictured) into the project by moving the massive structure 80 feet eastward. The move will be so astounding that U.K. based documentary program Mega Movers contacted Reverend Kelley to film the convent’s relocation. If the development schedule for the project can coalesce with Mega Movers’ production schedule, St. Martins could appear on the History Channel’s new season of the hit show.
The $41 million project will take the convent, which once served as a housing complex for nuns who taught at the St. Martin’s grade school, and merge it into the design of the apartment building. In 1990, the age-old convent was leased to DC-based Catholic Charities for use as a recovery location for drug-addicted mothers. Then in 2001, Catholic Charities began using the space as subsidized housing for recovering homeless men who needed supportive services and were unable to afford rent at market price. Now, Catholic Charities and St. Martin’s parish have decided that the building, which appears increasingly dilapidated with each passing day, the parking lot and the rest of the property would bode well as affordable housing for struggling adults. According to Reverend Kelley, it fits with the church’s mission – public outreach and social stewardship. Reverend Kelley added, “This speaks volumes about how the Catholic Church is putting Gospel beliefs into practice, or how we say here, taking our faith to the street.”