Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Georgia Commons Starts Up in Petworth

The contractors of Meridian Builders joined Mayor Adrian Fenty and Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser yesterday to oversee the demolition of an old Petworth carpet store at 3910-3912 Georgia Avenue, NW. It’s a site that will soon host the Georgia Commons – a 30,000 square foot, mixed-use project from Jair Lynch Development Partners and Affordable Housing Partners with 119 out of its 130 new apartments geared towards working families. But the developer stresses that this is not your typical affordable housing project.

"It’s generally for families of four making 50, 60, 70 thousand dollars – that’s the market we’re talking about. It’s much different than the general impression of what people think low-income means," said developer Jair Lynch. "We think the remainder may be higher in the 80 to 90 thousand range. It’s not a drastic change.”

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (ODMPED) selected the development team – which also includes EDG Architects and Frank Schlesinger Associates - two years ago following a competitive solicitation process. With features including a green roof, high efficiency heating and cooling systems, and "green screen" shielding, the project received an extra boost courtesy of the LEED Neighborhood Development pilot program, which acknowledges green and neighborhood-building features for buildings that fall short of traditional certification.

"This is one of the few projects in the country that was admitted into it," said Lynch. "They're moving towards acknowledging and certifying projects that are beneficial to neighborhoods, rather than just giving ratings for a building's efficiency...I think there are only three or four [such projects] in the District versus a pool of under of fifty across the country."

The seven-story, $35 million development will also feature a new ground-floor location for Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care– its third in the Washington area – that will provide physical, mental and oral health services. With “guaranteed care” and twice the patient capability of their current locations, the new facility will not be just a free clinic, but a primary care center for both middle and working class residents alike. Sharon Baskerville, CEO of the DC Primary Care Association described it as “a means of leveraging the city’s investment with private dollars.”

Apart from gathering those community benefiting features together under one roof, the past 18 months did provide some other unique obstacles for the development team. While ODMPED had to provide $5 million in gap financing to get the project moving, a laundry list of issues had to be addressed before construction could proceed. Said Lynch:

Whether it was the 18 lawsuits that the Deputy Mayor’s office worked diligently on for a year and a half, whether it was getting the permits out of [the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs] with Councilmember Bowser, whether it was the mandatory exclusionary zoning that we anticipated coming, whether it was the collapse of the financial systems for the last six months, this project has persevered time and time again. We’re not quite there yet, but we hope in the next month, now that [the Housing Finance Agency] has their board members, [the Department of Housing and Community Development] is committed and the rest of our partners are here…we’ll start be able to this wonderful new project.

Georgia Commons is just one of numerous Georgia Avenue projects that have steamrolled ahead in recent months. This past March, the Neighborhood Development Company opened the 72-unit Residences at Georgia Avenue, while, in approximately a month and half, Donatelli Development will hold a ribbon cutting for highly the anticipated Park Place project. To Mayor Fenty, himself a former Ward 4 councilmember, it’s evidence that change has taken hold on the prominent Northwest thoroughfare and in the surrounding Petworth neighborhood.

“On this four block stretch, you’re probably talking about 400 new apartments…For seventy years, not one new apartment was built on Georgia Avenue,” said Fenty. “Just in the past couple years and leading into the near future, there has been lots of development…When [this project] is finished, it won’t only be attractive. It’ll be a fantastic asset and resource for the community.” Georgia Commons is tentatively scheduled for a fall 2010 opening.


Anonymous said...

While I am happy to see this getting built, it does suck that they had to change the retail component. Originally, they were pitching a gym (I think a Results or something). Oh well, this is still a win though.

Anonymous said...

In this economy, DC is subsidizing people making $80 grand?

Anonymous said...

There are actually 239 projects in the LEED-ND pilot. They voluntary registered in the pilot.

Anonymous said...

Not people, families. Its not THAT easy to support a family of 4 in a decent neighborhood around here on a combined income of 80k.


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