Friday, January 14, 2011

Deanwood Heights Subsidized Housing Project Starts Today

An affordable housing development team will kick off construction of its project in northeast Washington DC today. The team of Denning Development, UrbanMatters Development Partners, Beulah Community Improvement, and NCD Management, which the Fenty administration awarded with city funding in September of 2009, will build 63 subsidized units at 400-414 Eastern Avenue, NE (29 townhouses), and, in a later phase, the empty 6100 block of Dix Street, NE (34 townhouses), an area that can be conservatively described as blighted and in need of economic development. Square 134 Architects designed the new townhouses.

Eden Place will be available to families making up to 120% Area Median Income (AMI, which is $103,500 for family of 4). Home prices are based on income, but the 3 and 4 story townhouses will run from $199,000 to the high $200's, ranging in size from 1,484 s.f. to 1,680 s.f., with price based on income. Though the project will be entirely affordable, bucking prevailing wisdom of mixing subsidized and market housing, developer Raymond Nix of UrbanMatters says occupants will still span a range of incomes. "This is really mixed income, it provides opportunities for first-time homebuyers, but it goes up to 120% AMI, the phrase affordable housing is really a broad one."

Today marks the beginning of demolition only, but Nix thinks the first units could deliver by mid-Summer. In awarding the project, Mayor Adrian Fenty predicted that construction would begin in February of 2010, but Nix says that was never a realistic timeline, and that construction of phase 2 is "sales dependent."

UrbanMatters was also awarded the contract to redevelop the M.M. Washington School last March, and will turn the historic school into 90 subsidized apartments for seniors, a project that was criticized by some for excessive government funding ($6m to $8m) while competing developers asked for less city money, several of whom questioned why the District chose a publicly funded option over what the losing bidders viewed as more regenerative types of projects. Financing for Eden Place will come from DC's New Communities Program, with the city kicking in $3m, or $47,619 per unit, according to Nix, with no HUD funding. Eagle Bank is the construction financier. "We're really rooted in grassroots community development and community serving affordable housing" said Nix of UrbanMatters' mission.

Ajia Meux, immediate Past President of the Deanwood Citizens Association said that just about anything in the area is a net positive. "Because of the environment around those buildings I don't like going over there much. Its been boarded up for at least a year, and even though its an affordable housing project, I'm glad that ward 7 is getting some attention...We are the most underserved ward in the District, and I'm exicited to see economic development happening in the city, but especially here. Hopefully this will stabilize the neighborhood a little bit." The only cloud inside the silver lining was the price tag. "I question how affordable it really is," said Meux, noting that houses in the area often sell below $100,000, though remodeled houses start around $150,000, but Nix points out that new townhouses in the area tend to sell in the high $200,000's and low $300,000's.

Winmar will serve as the General Contractor, with Bowman Civil Engineering. A ceremony will be held today at 2pm.

Washington DC real estate development news


Anonymous said...

Obviously the developers(and downtown) don't understand what "Affordable housing" is. Two to three hundred thousand dollars is not affordable in real-middle class(or rather what once was considered middle class and is now poor thanks to greedy rats). When no one can afford to live there then it wil become subsidized and future slums will be created. Will the developers reimburse neighbors for decreasing tgheir property value. If downtown actually cared about ward 7 then what is wrong with real single(detatched) homes(more like Habitat for Humanity).

Anonymous said...

While I agree with your sentiment about DC in general, I don't agree that 200K for 1400+ sqft isn't affordable. Even assuming zero money down, it's still under $1100 a month. If a family can't afford that then they definitely aren't middle class.

I don't understand why you think people being subsidized deserve detached homes over townhomes. The fact is I don't know anyone that can afford even a townhome, much less a SFH in DC. It's crazy to think a dozen detached homes should be built instead of 60 affordable townhomes.

Anonymous said...

The plan is horrible. Whoever designed this layout doesn't know a thing about "defensible space." I see tons of opportunities for drug sales and holding families hostage in their homes.

Anonymous said...

At the last anon,
Okay, since you are an expert on architecture then define: "Defensible Space". What design would you have the architects plan for this site? Explain in detail.

Anonymous said...

Square 134:

I think it's a solid layout and design to budget. I'm guessing hardiplank fiber cement siding, standard windows and interior finishes... the layout creates solid negative space enough for activities inside the tiny little community and the two different layouts provide a separation between unit types (courtyard and row homes with parking behind. it's about as much as you can do with the design - the landscaping will have to be done well to compliment. did you consider treating entrances differently? introducing bay windows on certain units? something to spruce up the elevations without spending tons of cash. Also - you started to do it, but maybe do it more where the color changes or hardi plank changes on each home a little... one's in shake, the next horizontal, one's color "A", the next color "B". I think there's a little more development that could happen to the exteriors to kick it up a notch without spending anything. you're starting to do it, maybe look into it more. Also - staggering them to create "ins" and "outs" at the front facades is sometimes enough to create a nice texture as you're walking down the sidewalk. overall I think they're nice. like them a lot.

from an urban design standpoint, make entrance condition details relate to landscaping details and follies. fencing, benches, trellises, light posts, things of that nature. you don't want it to get too "american dream-y" looking either though.

2 cents for you

Anonymous said...

@ square 134n
Thanks for clearing that up. Sounds nice. Maybe you should've been considered to design the development. Anyway, thanks.

Anonymous said...

@ square 134,
Oh, my oversight. I've just
noticed that you are the designing architect for this development. Either way, thanks for clearing that up for the anon who had a lot of negativity, but could not give his reasons for his claim of it being a "bad design". Apparently, s/he hated the design probably because of the area that its being developed in because if it were being proposed in an area different from the existing, response would've been different or at least scaled down. Either way, thank you for you response.

Anonymous said...

I am the "negative" anon. I was just referring to the layout where the backs of townhouses face the fronts of other townhomes. This is an irregular condition - one that should be avoided but this plan repeats this condition many times. The way the plan is set up many of these buildings would need two fronts in order to frame the street and the large green space in a considerate way.

The back string of yellow homes are completely (visually) cut-off from the street. That is not a pleasant condition to live. Also the back orange townhomes are also hidden from the street. Maybe the word "horrible" is too strong. I apologize I could have used the word "unsafe." I just think this site plan could lead to dangerous situations.

Anonymous said...

In reference to the “negative anon”

The concern about safety was taken into consideration during design. Admittedly, it is unclear from the first generation plan that is posted on this blog, however, the before mentioned internal "yellow" (phase II) units actually face the green area between the "yellow" and the "orange" units (phase I). This area is to be landscaped, well lit and connected to the rest of the site with sidewalks. In addition, the mail boxes and a playground will also be in this area. The parking and trash area is adjacent and there should be plenty of foot traffic with "eyes on the street" from the front of the phase II units as well as the backs of the phase I units, which sit higher due to the grades. Please keep in mind that that site slopes considerably from the high point at Eastern Ave to the low point at Dix Street. The design sets up a series of stepped or terraced conditions and therefore a progression of spaces up and down the hill.

In the phase I “orange” units it is true that the backs of four units face the fronts of the units in the u-shape. However, this area is envisioned as a court with appropriate lighting, landscaping, hardscaping etc. In addition, considerable care was taken to ensure that the opening between the Eastern Ave. units and the back U shape was sized properly, AKA not too narrow and not too open. Please refer the first image/rendering to see this condition. Density is also an issue and not just from an economic standpoint but also a planning standpoint. We feel it is important to have a critical mass of people, forms and activities in order for developments to have safe and usable urban spaces. Too much open space can be just as damaging as too little and finding the right balance on this project was a challenge given the oddities of the existing site configuration and grading.

One of the key components to defensible space is ownership, both in the literal and the figurative sense. The former is relatively easy to accomplish as none of the units will be rental properties. The latter is a little harder as it is difficult to design in a sense of community and ownership of one’s neighborhood. Especially one that has had its challenges such as this one. With that said, we have tried to create a development that can at least support a sense of community, through the scale and size of the building groups, detailing of the facades, progression of the urban spaces, etc.

In reference to the comments about the fa├žade and suggestions of stepping the units, the bay windows, etc. Yes we did consider many, if not all, of those design details, however, we needed to focus resources on what we viewed as the critical features; the high roof gable, attic dormers, heavier trim, triple windows on some unit, side windows on the end units and masonry water table. In phase II, where the building groups are longer the plan is to step the units to break up the massing and provide visual relief. This was not as critical in phase I where the building groups are not larger than 5 units.

We hope this addressed your concerns and we appreciate everyone’s interest and comments on this project. We are confident that this development will be a success and a benefit to the greater community.

-Square 134 Architects

Anonymous said...

I need one.... plus they are cute. I hope the rest of the area would follow... Good Job.

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