Friday, July 23, 2010

Yet Another Affordable Housing Project For Columbia Heights


The contract to design, develop, and build a 37-unit affordable housing project at 1421 Euclid Street, NW has been awarded to Euclid Community Partners, a triad consisting of Dantes Partners, Perdomo Group, and Capital Construction Enterprises. Developers and city officials say this $11.5 million Justice Park project will offset gentrification trends in the area, and help Ward One and Columbia Heights to remain a diverse and multi-dimensional community. The rental apartments will be marketed to those in the local workforce making no more than 60% of the Average Median Income (AMI). Mayor Fenty, Ward One Councilman Jim Graham, the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) Valerie Santos, and ANC1B Chairman Gail Holness were all in attendance to officially award the winning contract, and voice their support for the project. Other proposals competing for the contract offered mixed-income developments with only small portions designated as affordable housing units. Clearly affordable "workforce" housing was the priority of the Mayor and his staff, as he elaborated
on his delight at finalized contract, saying: "there was a lot of talk, scrutiny, and debate at city hall about this project ... but we are all glad that the talking has stopped, and the action has gotten back on track."

Questions were raised in the competitive bidding process for this project, but Dantes Parnters now has several opportunities to produce and prove their critics wrong, as principal Buwa Binitie and his company have become actively involved in the development of several other District-owned properties. Binitie and Dantes Partners are bearing the entire load of development responsibilities for the VIDA Senior Residences project at Brightwood and the 5-story, 44-unit residential building on Chapin Street. They have also partnered with EastBanc Inc. as regular favorite project-winners of the Fenty administration, sharing development of the long-neglected West End fire station, library, and police unit buildings, as well as the Hine School redevelopment.

The current 12,325 s.f. Justice Park will cease to be a place for public recreation and become home to construction equipment sometime in mid 2012. That is if the PUD application process or financing struggles don't slow down the project, a common story line for many other developments. In the meantime, a new Justice Park will be constructed across the street on a District owned plot of land that Fenty describes as "lower to the ground, closer to the street, and more accessible to kids, seniors, and families." In addition to the modern design, efficient appliances, class A amenities, front and rear balconies, and rooftop terrace being offered at the new building, Dantes Partners has also agreed to fund the yearly maintenance costs of the new park on the south-side of Euclid. Banneker Ventures, teaming with Regan Associates, will develop the park using a budget of $750,000, but have yet to contract an architectural firm for the design.

Fenty and Santos each stressed their "ongoing commitment" to affordable housing, a rebuttal to the criticism for lack of action on Parcel 42 and other vacant District lots that has angered some city residents, even inspiring protests. But as Councilman Graham's website brags, federal funding has been undoubtedly strong for "workforce" housing: 2,500 units of low-income housing have been preserved and renovated and $256 million of public and private funds have been spent on affordable housing in the last five years. While some detractors contend that affordable housing serves to concentrate poverty and devalue adjacent property, Jim Graham insisted that they were ensuring that "our firefighters, our librarians, our new teachers, and many others" have access to affordable housing. Dantes Partners has projected that their two-bedroom units will cost roughly $1,400 per month, significantly less than the average market rate condo.

The unveiled renderings look suprisingly derivative of the general style of the Villagio apartment building next door. In addressing the press and community members, Buwa was careful to thank the Villagio and its owners for their cooperation and support during this initial design process. For the future residents who aren't lucky enough to have a view of the new park from their balconies, they are at least afforded the next best thing: some quality people watching, looking down on the adjacent BP gas station (and who doesn't look down on BP these days).

The ANC expressed support for the design and the project, but Dantes Partners, along with PGN Architects, will work with the community, ANC, and Zoning Commission to further refine their drawings in the coming months. The developers will seek a nine percent tax break through the District Housing Finance Agency's Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). And if that bid is rejected, the development team will be awarded a non-competitive four percent tax credit, and hope for an additional $4.1 million District subsidy.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

17 comments:

Patty Cake said...

Does Jim Graham ever change that ice-cream suit?

Anonymous said...

Developers and city officials say this $11.5 million Justice Park project will offset gentrification trends in the area, and help Ward One and Columbia Heights to remain a diverse and multi-dimensional community.

Why would we want to offset gentrification in the area? Columbia Heights still has plenty of subsidized housing that will ensure that riff-raff remains in the area. Frankly I can't wait until that housing stock is given the Nehemiah strip mall treatment and bulldozed so some market-rate structures can be put in its place.

Tim on Jul 23, 2010, 5:14:00 PM said...

this is a great plan for the space despite the obligatory detractors that these very useful projects bring along with them.

the term affordable housing carries a stigma for political reasons, but in this economy, in this city, who can argue.

Anonymous said...

Yeah these are just fancy words for saying this is the only way we can get financing for projects right now - call it affordable. We all know that affordable housing is just you buying or renting in a neighborhood less desirable or renting or buying something smaller. All this other talk about giving people affordable huge housing for below market rates is dumb. You gotta work hard go to school get an education and time the market right. If you don't then you get to pay retail for housing - somebody has to pay retail. If enough people don't or can't pay retail for housing then prices come down like what happened 2 years ago with the housing bust. And that's how I got affordable housing - I just waited for the bust there's always a bust supply and demand rules and cash is king. If people don't have money to buy they wont and prices fall - very simple. Now Fenty and Santos stepping in to create cheap designed oversized affordable housing is shameful to supply and demand. It enables the nearby apartments to charge outrageous prices. If Fenty would just stay on his bike then the city could let supply and demand play out. Those who can't afford Columbia Heights should try Anacostia and that will allow Anacostia to develop but giving away affordable housing in upper NW continues to isolate other neighborhoods in DC. People gotta get outside NW - it's affordable in Deanwood. Oh you don't wanna live in Deanwood ok you to good for Deanwood - then pay retail. The real Affordable housing is always in less desirable neighborhoods or in smaller units like studios.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:15,

Why don't you jump off the Key Bridge?

Anonymous said...

what they dont mention about "affording" housing is that it will probably take section 8 vouchers and therefore really be projects. columbia heights has enough freaking public housing. if you cant afford to live somewhere then move to where its affordable. where's my government handout?

what is jim graham doing? is he trying to get housing for all this voters?

Anonymous said...

This is awful news. We have so much affordable housing in Ward 1 its making me want to move. I believe in mixed income but now I'm starting to believe Jim Graham doesn't want anyone of moderate means to live in ward 1, As a homeowner I have rights too, and this city is making an effort to make sure my housing value is suppressed so I am poorer. Not fair at all.

Anonymous said...

I personally think housing that is affordable to people of modest means is a good thing. some of us working for nonprofits also want to be able to live in the city and enjoy its benefits.

And @Anon 4:25, if you want to move, please do! dont get mad because you bought your place speculating that Columbia Heights would be Georgetown 6 months later. Nothing stopped you from buying at Woodley Park or Cleveland Park, or Tenleytown or AU Park. hm, or perhaps that was not "affordable" to you...huh, that's a thought...

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:58 - if you work for a non profit, then are you in an affordable housing building? I bet you are not because you make too much money. This city is making an effort to keep ghetto's alive. People who work for what they have deserve to be able to have a fair investment in the city, and people who don't work or don't get themselves educated certainly deserve reasonable housing but not at the expense of keeping values surpressed for everyone else.

IMGoph on Jul 26, 2010, 8:01:00 AM said...

valerie, not valer, santos.

Tim on Jul 26, 2010, 12:49:00 PM said...

i would look elsewhere for factors that supposedly suppress the value of you home. nearby affordable housing is way down the list.

and the lame right wing argument of "get a job" is just insulting at this point. the reagan/bush1-era image of poor residents living it up in govt subsidized housing is mostly false.

there are so many hard workers in this city putting in 40+ hours a week who still can't afford to live where they work. including cops, teachers, firefighters and municipal workers.

Anonymous said...

How are they expecting to go through a Planned Unit Development for 37 apartments when the project does not have enough land to qualify for a PUD? If they can not get a PUD then they cannot get 37 units, which means that they are going to ask for a larger subsidy from DC. Also, if they do not get the 9% tax credit, they are asking for a 4.1 Million dollar district subsidy. It seems like a lot of hurdles to jump through. I think this property will get put back out for RFP in 2012 or 2013.

A D.C. Po-lice said...

"there are so many hard workers in this city putting in 40+ hours a week who still can't afford to live where they work. including cops, teachers, firefighters and municipal workers."

Speaking as a D.C. cop, I'll tell you that most officers aren't going to live in D.C. because they either want to get away from work, or they want more space for their buck. I live in D.C. because I'm single and childless, so I can afford it.

Moreover, the starting salary for a D.C. cop is $48,000 and moves up to $53,000 at the 18 month mark. Put overtime, court pay, part time, etc. in there and you're rapidly priced out of 'workforce housing'.

In addition, a lot of buildings like this that have gone up end up being just as bad as any slum apartment, especially when the building owners need to cover the bills and start having Section 8 renters, people on 'disability', the residents hoodlum children/family/boyfriends and girlfriends/etc., the mentally ill who are put in an independent living situation, and so forth move in.

Add all those factors up, and you can figure out why cops, firefighters and other workers move out of the city in search of their own digs in the surrounding counties instead of staying in 'workforce' housing.

Mori said...

This is such disappointing news. One just needs to look a failed housing projects throughout the U.S. to see that placing poor amongst the poor doesn't benefit anyone (see Cabrini Green). While most cities have learned their lessons (see Cabrini Green now where now there are mixed income housing developments that have strict rules to acquire and keep the lower income apts and a serious decrease in crime and increas in business) DC continues to support a failed policy.

DCAdvocate said...

How many of you folks commenting here make over $100k a year? Affordable housing does not always translate into public housing. The Area Median Income is $104k. 80% of this is $80k, 60% is $60k, 30% is $30k. Who makes this level of income in the District? It's not just African Americans, but others who need decent but affordable housing.
I'm tired of reading idiotic comments from closeted racist who make stupid statements about something they have no knowledge of. If you don't want to live around "these people" then you should simply have not moved into the neighborhood.
I think mixed-income housing is a good step, but when you're poor and your neighbors are like these commentators, why would you want to live in an building where everyone despises you?

Anonymous said...

Columbia Heights' median income is $104k?? Are you smoking crack or just too far left to come back to reality? I make $50k a year and live in a nice apartment a few blocks from the Columbia Heights metro which is a great area besides all the vagrants wandering the streets scaring people. Get your facts straight before spewing left wing ignorance.

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