Monday, April 19, 2010

Northwest One to Get First of Many Affordable Housing Projects

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 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.

Washington, DC real estate development news


Anonymous said...

With the continuing issues surrounding Banneker, is there any indication as to what will happen to deals in which they 'partner up'?

Is it telling as to the lay of the land & the way that people have chosen to do business in DC as to who those parties are they saddle up the the trough with them?

Thoughts from the group would be appreciated.

Bliss on Apr 19, 2010, 3:46:00 PM said...

Oh good, affordable housing that looks like affordable housing. :P

SursumResident said...

Sursum Corda is still owned by the residents of the cooperative. They are negotiating a deal to return to their homes against a heavily gentrifying agenda by the City. Not everyone in there are drug-dealers/users or criminals. Many of us have been here with our families for almost over 40 years now and we don't want to lose our homes because of politics. Treat us fairly or screw off- we're fighting and staying at all cost.

JohnDC said...

To SursumResident

Nobody is saying that everybody living there is a drug dealer/user or criminal. I'm sure there are a lot of hard working families, but a few bad apples can ruin the bunch. Do I need to bring up Jahkema Princess Hansen?

I've been a DC resident for just shy of a decade and have grown to love this city. One exception is the corner of North Capitol & New York Ave which is at the edge of your community. Walking by I've witnessed drug dealings, fights, public urination and harassment.

Concentrated subsidized housing does not work. The city is trying to correct that mistake by mixed use and I stand behind them.

JohnDC said...


While nobody would suggest that all residents in Sursum are criminals there is a criminal element there. And a few bad apples will spoil a bunch. Do you remember Jahkema Princess Hansen? She was the 14 year old girl who was assassinated in sursum to prevent her from testifying.

As a 10 year DC resident I've seen a lot of good and some bad. One of the bad sections of DC is in the NE section of sursum at the corner of North Capitol & Florida. It's an open drug market and a product of both Sursum & Big Ben liquors.

Concentrated subsidized housing does not work. We need to move towards mixed income housing.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone in there are drug-dealers/users or criminals.

Yes, but most people in there are drug dealers, users, or criminals. There's a reason PSA 101 drug arrests plummeted after that area was torn down.

Anonymous said...

Capitol & New York Ave which is at the edge of your community. Walking by I've witnessed drug dealing, fights, public urination and harassment.

What, you don't like the open air market at Big Ben? I once saw a guy having a grand mal on the sidewalk outside...

Anonymous said...

Sursum Res: With Banneker involve, I'm sorry to say the whole redevelopment is nothing by politics. For your sake, I hope this thing gets moving so you'll have some real amenities in your neighbourhood rather than Big Ben and empty lots.

If Banneker approaches you about redevoping, close the door as fast as you can.

Anonymous said...

Sursum Resident.
I sense some hostility in you. Focus that hostility on your neighbors whose children run the streets. Focus on the parents in your community who do not take care of their children. These children then turn to crime and sex out of wedlock. Then they run or get caught or get pregnant and have multiple children and can't afford them or take care of them. Then these children grow up misguided and they run the streets and get pregnant and commit crimes and go to jail and drop out of high school. I'm sorry but I'm not moved by your "almost over 40 years now" speech because it's been almost 40 years of hell in your neighborhood and you have the nerve to bark at someone else. Pick the right fight and win. Get a hold of your residents and families and the city will have no need to bother you.

Poo Poo Pee Doo! said...

Ummmm. Did y'all forget about the methadone clinic by Big Ben's booze joint?

Anonymous said...

100% subsidized=FAIL

Anonymous said...

Sursum Corda is still owned by the residents of the cooperative.

But will be owned by the drug dealers at Sibley Plaza and Tyler House once rebuilt! Maybe the cooperative can put together funds to hire a permanent MPD detail (not those "security guards")?

Anonymous said...

Any residents who have been living in DC for the last 40 years have directly contributed to the worst 40 years in DC's history. That is something they should be ashamed of, not act as if they are owed anything.

T. Ross on Apr 20, 2010, 8:49:00 PM said...

Small point of correction to make. The Walker Jones Educational Campus is the K-8 school plus the Early Stages center. Housed in the same building is the RH Terrell Recreation Center (which I hear should be opening in late June), and the Northwest One Neighborhood Library (which opened last December).

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