Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Arlington's Westover Apartments on Schedule for Renovation

AHC Inc. looks ready to begin construction on its 152-unit Westover Apartment complex. AHC, a nonprofit developer and property management firm based out of Arlington, has had plans to modernize at 1649 N. Longfellow Street for more than two years now. Initially the firm was going to spruce up their property by demolishing the center building in the eight-structure complex and rebuild it to hold more apartments with larger living spaces, but because of Historic Preservation requirements, AHC will have to settle for renovating the entire complex at a total development cost of $50 million. The tri-phase revitalization effort is currently being privately bid by General Contractors, which will end on April 7; phase one of renovations is set to begin this summer.

Under earlier plans, AHC would have demolished the roughly 32,000-s.f. center building and constructed a 5-story, 110,000-s.f. building in its place, but decided in the Spring of last year to forego demolitions and simply renovate all of the buildings and their units instead. "Building the new building was not feasible," said Joe Weatherly, project manager at AHC. "The historic folks here in Arlington did not want us to demolish 'building 5,' It was really a component of the historic requirements, and the rezoning of that piece of land, which currently does not allow for density like that." All eight buildings in the complex are 'historic' because they were built in 1939.

Finance also played into the decision; because the allowable density would have been so low for the new construction - the new building would have been five stories but would have required a more expensive steel frame by local code - there was no way to justify the construction expense or the amount of time necessary to fight density critics.

The renovation process, based on the interior designs from Neale Architects of Alexandria, will be divided into three phases, which should total about 18 months beginning this summer. Each phase will renovate roughly 50 residences, most of which are two-story, townhouse-style units. AHC will be giving all the mechanical, plumbing and electrical infrastructures an overhaul and add new cabinetry and appliances. In addition, AHC will eliminate the centralized boiler system and replace it with individual HVAC units. Finally, after the entire complex gets a window replacement, the firm will add a single new unit to the complex, which will be created out of the old management office - AHC's new office will be built in the basement of one of the buildings and will hold the management and maintenance headquarters, as well as a community recreation center.

"From the outside, if you look at the buildings now and you come back and look at the buildings when we're done, you're really not going to see a substantial difference. The biggest difference will be on the interiors and the infrastructure" added Weatherly. The project is estimated for completion by 4th quarter of 2009.

Addendum: Catherine Bucknam, Director of Community Relations at AHC, gave us insight into her firm's plan to take care of the current residents: "The relocation team is working with residents to minimize disruption for those residents living on the property. Our strategy has been that, as vacancies have come up over the last six or seven months, we have not rented them out so that we could move families to those vacant units when we start construction in the sections where they're living."


Anonymous said...

now, what about the people that live there? will they be emptying the entire complex and then getting all new renters (at the requisite ridiculously high rents warranted after a renovation)? or are they going to work around the current tenants, and then raise their rents?

this article is great in explaining the renovation plan, but speaks nothing of the human aspect. i bet there are tons of families who live there because the apartments are 'affordable' for the region. put another hash mark in for the developers making life just a little harder for those just managing to scrape by.

(and for the record, i have a good job, make a decent salary, and found i couldn't even qualify to rent an apartment at Section 8 prices. instead, i've got four roommates. there are plenty of people our area making way less than me - what are they to do?)

David on Mar 20, 2008, 12:17:00 PM said...

Anonymous: Please read the last paragraph, that I just added, which should answer your question.

In case you were wondering, the 'astute reader' that I refer to, is you...

Thanks for keeping us on our toes.

Anonymous said...

What this article does not say is that if the owners went ahead and demolished a large portion of this very cohesive complex of residential buildings, they would be ineligible for valuable tax credits available for eligible historic properties, including Westover. These credits, offered by both the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Federal Government, are an integral component of the project's financing. FYI, VA offers a 25% state tax credit and the Fed's a 20% federal tax credit on rehabilitation costs of the historic buildings proper; the costs of any site improvements or new construction are not eligible.

Anonymous said...

AHC is a slum landlord--allowing overcrowding, unbearable noise, fails to honor maintenance requests, and has surly, incompetent staaff.


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