Monday, October 27, 2008

Wizards Owner Bringing Magic Back to NE Housing Project


John Stranix, formerly of Clark Construction and now of Stranix Associates, is spearheading an effort - via the Pollin Memorial Development, LLC - to bring a 125-unit development to the ever-expanding Minnesota Avenue corridor in northeast Washington.

Named for the family of Washington Wizards owner, Verizon Center visionary, and generous District benefactor - Abe Pollin - the $18 million Pollin Memorial Community Development would transform a 450,000 square foot chunk of Ward 7 into "91 row dwellings, eight three-unit apartment buildings and five flats, amounting to a total of 125 residential units" - for a total of 193,688 square feet of new development. This would be the second such memorial public housing development in the District - Pollin previously opened Southeast's Linda Pollin Memorial Housing project in 1967.

Bounded by Hayes, Barnes, and Grant Streets, NE and Anacostia Avenue, the new Pollin complex would replace the 49-year-old Parkside Additions public housing project on the site with 83 homeownership units and 42 “rental replacement public housing units” – affordable housing targeting renters at or below 30% of the area media income. While the current Parkside project is described by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) as “functionally obsolete,” the new affordable units would be reserved as a “one-for- one replacement” for current tenants.

The redevelopment of housing would be complemented by new internal streets and a new “intimately-scaled” neighborhood park that would fall at the end of what is now Cassell Place, NE. This would include a new playground and landscaped area with trees and benches – all of which would front on the row houses, in order to allow for easy child supervision.

The site is a composite of property belonging to 3 distinct entities – the District of Columbia, the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA), and the National Parks Service (NPS). The developer courted the approval of all of those landowners back in 2006 and received approval for the project from NCPC last year.

Despite the multitude of parties with stakes in the site - current residents not least among them - the District posits that redevelopment is in the best interests of all involved including those of the greater Minnesota-Benning corridor. "Regarding the [area's] comprehensive plan, the development will further some of its major themes," said Matt Jesick, Development Review Specialist of the DC Office of Planning, in session before the District of Columbia Zoning Commission. "It will replace an older public housing development with newer affordable housing. It will compliment existing and proposed development in the neighborhood. It will preserve approximately 43 percent of the site as an undeveloped natural area and it will promote enhanced public safety and provide for diversity in the community." Enterprise Community Partners, who are financing part of the Wheeler Terrace public housing redevelopment in Southeast, have also issued a statement in support of the project.

Using designs by Torti Gallas & Partners, the project aims to begin construction in August 2009.

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