Monday, July 26, 2010

La Vida VIDA: New Affordable Senior Housing in Brightwood

La vida living is about to get easier in Washington D.C. District-based VIDA will break ground tomorrow on a new residential project in Brightwood, adding 36 residential units in a new building structured for affordable senior housing.

Formerly known as Educational Organization for United Latin Americans, the newly renamed 501(c)(3) that serves over 600 DC-area seniors annually is getting ready to add another 36 units to its stock. Located on Missouri Avenue on a now vacant lot, VIDA will build affordable senior housing in Ward 4, where the largest concentration of the District's seniors live. This is the first time VIDA is developing housing, with financing that got creative. The development team - comprised of VIDA Senior Centers, Dantes Partners as the Development Consultant, Zavos Architecture and Design, NDC Real Estate for property management, and Hamel Builders as General Contractor - used a multilayer financing approach. Tapping into federal stimulus programs (Section 1602 Tax Credit Exchange), Neighborhood Investment Funds (NIF), private bank debt and an Enterprise Green Communities grant, the development secured financing for an area that has seen little new residential development since the financing bust several years ago. "We were fortunate to have been selected as an innovative project that served a unique need. We were lucky enough to have partners who believed in our vision," said Jordan Bishop of Dantes Partners.

With four stories of new affordable and accessible rental units, the five-story independent-living senior center will provide services that include meals, music, presentations, dancing, minor checkups, medication management, "spiritual activities," and private van transportation, and of course bingo and chess. The project is being billed as "transit-oriented development," despite the lack of a nearby Metro station, which makes it easier to get the zoning variance of 4 parking spots rather than the required 6.

Zavos Architecture and Design, a firm with experience in non-profit, affordable and sustainable community-oriented development, designed into the project a number of "quality of life improving" and energy reducing features. Those include a vegetated roof with walk-on terrace space to manage storm water, reduce heating and cooling loads on the building and provide outdoor green space for residents; permeable parking and other drive areas to allow storm water to filter naturally into the ground and reallocate infrastructural funds to services; high-emissive roofing rather than traditional EPDM to deflect the sun's heat and reduce associated cooling costs; privately metered electricity and hot water to encourage reduced consumption (for a generation always yelling at you to wear a sweater and turn down the heat, that shouldn't be an issue); improved indoor air quality through the installation of non-toxic and non-allergenic flooring; and the maximization of daylight in all units to minimize the use of artificial lighting and improve indoor environmental quality.

"I am most proud of having been able to fit so many services in such a small building. Envisioning people spending the latter part of their lives in this building is something we took seriously. We have designed a quality place for them," remarked Tim Daniel, the project architect for the VIDA-developed housing.

While the elderly account for 12% of the District’s population, retirement age individuals make up over 18% of the population of Ward 4. VIDA has traditionally served the District’s Latino senior citizens, but it is expanding its target demographic to meet growing needs in other populations, specifically identifying African-Americans and immigrants of Caribbean and Brazilian backgrounds, among others.

"The initial goal was always to provide high quality senior housing at affordable rental rates (50% AMI - Area Median Income) and to combine this with space on the ground floor to provide services specifically targeted to seniors. With the recent closing and groundbreaking, we are well on track to achieving these desirable goals," said Jordan Bishop of Dantes Partners. The groundbreaking will take place at 10:30am.

Washington DC real estate development news


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