The Views at Clarendon Corporation (VCC) is one step closer to realizing its vision for a 10-story affordable housing project in the center of Clarendon now that a U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the Views at Clarendon on all counts. With a victory in hand, developers hope to start construction within months on 46 market-rate and 70 affordable apartments one block from the Clarendon Metro station.
Planning for the development began back in 2003, when the First Baptist Church of Clarendon conducted an assessment that soon lead to the vision for the subsidized apartment community, but has been mired in lawsuits almost since its inception. Several groups of parties have contested the development as a violation of the Establishment Clause in the U.S. and Virginia constitutions, and have fought the use of county tax dollars on a project that would buy land from the church - a struggle that has twice landed in the lap of the Virginia Supreme Court and was covered extensively recently by the Washington Post. While this week's ruling is expected to be appealed, the decision is a welcome ruling for the project's promoters.
The Bozzuto Construction Company began site preparation work in January, and developers expect the project will begin construction in earnest this summer. The legal decision comes 7 years and 5 lawsuits after the Church hired the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to consult on the need for affordable housing in the region, a study that culminated in the Church selling the land to a non-profit entity for $5.6m, with a set of plans for a 10-story building. The Church intends to use its funds, party derived from the sale, to purchase back two floors within the new development.
Nina Janopaul, President of APAH, says the ruling is consistent with fairness of the transaction. "There are many, many precedents for church and affordable housing projects, including the Macedonia project here in Arlington. We did the same thing there; in a slightly different set of circumstances...the church in this case gets compensation for the sale of its property, as is appropriate." Janopaul says the transaction was arms-length and did not disproportionately benefit the Church. "The sale price was well below the $14m appraisal for the property. That's pretty reasonable for a full acre of land in the heart of Clarendon...Clarendon literally has no affordable element in any of the new housing that has gone up."
Arlington developers face of choice of providing affordable housing or contributing to a fund for that purpose, some of which was used to provide a low-interest loan to the non-profit owner of the project. Janopaul says that while repayment of the loan to the county is always a struggle for a low-income housing provider, the market rate element of the Views will expedite that process. "Mixed-income properties are a little more robust in paying back those loans."
The residence is being designed by Arlington- based MTFA Architecture, Inc., which plans to achieve LEED Silver status for the project. Views at Clarendon will be operated by Bozzuto Management.
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