This summer, construction may at last begin - fingers crossed - on Northwest One's first residential project, the SeVerna. Mission First Development, The Henson Development Company and project sponsor Golden Rule Apartments, Inc. (GRA) are working with architects Grimm + Parker to build 60 residential units to replace the former Golden Rules Center that occupied the site until its demolition in early 2009. The empty lot will be developed in phases, beginning with a 100% subsidized project at First and K Streets, NW. Phase 2, a 120-unit highrise, is still a distant vision.
The housing project falls within the District of Columbia's exulted Northwest One rebirth zone, though the site is privately controlled and not subject to the District's land disposition agreement made with developers of neighboring properties. Golden Rule Apartments, Inc. is an affiliate of nearby Bible Way Church, which owns several plots in the Northwest One neighborhood. The site at stake here formerly offered low-density housing, community center and grocery shared by nearby Golden Rules Apartments, a subsidized multi-family project the Church recently rehabilitated. The church began sponsoring affordable housing in the Northwest One community in the 1970s.
The site is also adjacent to the District-owned Temple Courts apartments, demolished by the District in December of 2008 to make way for its own Northwest One plans; namely, the first stage of its New Communities Initiative, which "provides resources so that the community, in partnership with public and private entities, can work to transform highly concentrated low-income neighborhoods into healthy mixed-income neighborhoods." The government's Northwest One initiative aims to bring more than 1,600 residential units to the former site of Temple Court and crime-ridden Sursum Corda Cooperative (picture, at left), which D.C. bought out in mid 2007, and turn the area into a model of affordable development. Sursum Corda (Latin for "lift up your hearts") was, it should be noted, designed for the same purpose, i.e., as a cooperatively-owned urban refuge to promote ownership and civic pride.
The District has already constructed the Walker Jones Education Campus, a school and recreation center, as the first installment of the $700m development. In October 2009, development partners Banneker Ventures and William C. Smith & Co. announced that the next phase of Northwest One, 300 units of housing, 30% of which would be subsidized, to replace the vacant parking lot at the intersection of North Capitol and Patterson Streets. The team announced that construction would begin this spring, though so far it has not.
The neighboring GRA project is asking for as much as $995,000 in tax credits from the District to build the project. The developers are working with PNC bank to finance the debt and equity for the project; gap financing of $1.9 million will be provided by the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development's New Communities Initiative. The total project costs will be $15.5 million with just over half, $8 million, coming from private sources.
GRA reports that its SeVerna development is moving forward with its portion of the Northwest One Initiative, 60 residential units, broken down into 48 mid-rise units and 12 two-over-two townhouses. According to Zak Schooley, a Project Designer with Grimm + Parker, the 70's era Golden Rules Center "turned its back on the community" and "wasn't successful" because of its purposeful architectural seclusion. Though the project is affordable, the architect says the mistake won't be repeated. The "goal is to begin to make this area more up and coming." You will not find any vinyl siding, according to Schooley. Instead, the architects will use "fiber cement siding and brick...to improve the aesthetics of the area." Though the interiors will not be "overly lavish" the project will be "very nice compared to what used to be on the site." Faint praise, maybe, but still an improvement.
The units will be affordable at 30 and 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) with many going to former residents of the Golden Rules Center and Temple Court Apartments thanks to a right of return agreement signed by the developers of projects within the Northwest One New Communities Initiative. Yvonne M. Williams, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Bible Way Church, said, "as far as I know, we may well be the first development [in Northwest One] that will enable former residents to come back."
According to Elizabeth Askew, Project Manager for Mission First Development, the team "hopes to close on financing and begin construction this summer." The general contractor for the first phase is Maryland-based Hamel Builders.
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