"You saw this big, beautiful tent and thought you were in Georgetown, but you're not. You're in the new Ward 8," said councilman and former mayor Marion Barry during his remarks at the event. "Southeast Washington has had a negative image for a long time. We're going to turn that around."
CPDC and the architects behind the project, Wiencek + Associates, are seeking to lead by example by outfitting Wheeler Terrace with a cadre of green features usually unheard of in public housing. The 116 affordable housing units – located at 1217 Valley Avenue SE - will feature energy efficient insulation and appliances, clean-air systems, white reflective vinyl roofs, a green roof demonstration project, and – in a first for District public housing – heat supplied by a geothermal pump. Upon completion, it will be the only such project in the city to merit a LEED gold certification – another point of pride for the developers and tenants alike.
“[The current tenants] are absolutely thrilled. The fact that they have the opportunity to go green is a big deal for them,” said the CPDC’s press contact for the project, Michelle Darden Lee. “It saves on utility costs and one of the things that this project shows is that going green isn’t just for upper income projects.”
Funds for the $33 million project were drawn from a variety of sources – primarily a $4 million loan from the Enterprise Community Partners (ECP) and City First Bank, and another $1.9 million loan from the Housing Partnership Fund. ECP also made two further contributions to the project: a $50,000 grant for “green design and planning expenses” and a $25,000 grant for “organization development.” Other financial partners on the project include the District of Columbia Department of Housing and Community Development, the District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency, PNC Bank and Union Bank of California.
According to Mark James, CPDC’s Project Manager for the development, Wheeler Terrace’s troubled past didn’t preclude the developer from having any shortage of investors:
One of the reasons we selected ECP and the bank is that they were not only aware of who we were as developers, but also very committed to doing green building. They felt as though CPDC has done a number of projects in areas that had experienced blight and significant reinvestment over the years. When we put the idea of being green along with our experience as affordable housing developers, they felt extremely comfortable.
Plans for redeveloping the blighted housing project stretch back to 2006, when the residents of Wheeler Terrace exercised their right to purchase the land under the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). The new owners, the Wheeler Terrace Tenant Association, selected CPDC as developer shortly thereafter. Turner Construction is currently spearheading the renovation efforts at the 133,000 square foot site. Construction is expected to be completed in July of 2009.