ARHA prepares for next redevelopment projects

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By Chris Teale (Courtesy photo)

Correction: this article originally stated that ARHA CEO Roy Priest had retired from his position. Priest will actually retire in mid-2017. Because of an editing error, the article also incorrectly stated when the properties will apply for tax credits. Ramsey Homes will apply for tax credits in March, and Andrew Adkins will apply in 2018.The Times regrets the errors.

The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority has begun the process of revamping five of its properties in the city following approval last fall of the Ramsey Homes redesign.

The sites are set for an over- haul in the not-too distant future after the authority issued a request for proposals in 2014 to find private developers with whom to partner on the projects.

Of those — Andrew Adkins, Cameron Valley, Hopkins-Tancil, Samuel Madden and the ARHA headquarters — the redevelopment of the 90-unit Adkins property at 700 N. Fayette St. officially began late last year with a kick-off event held at the nearby Charles Houston Recreation Center.

Under a tentative approval process put together by city and ARHA staff, Adkins and Madden would come before the planning commission and city council by December, with the ARHA headquarters and Hopkins-Tancil to follow in June 2019 and Cameron Valley in December 2020.

ARHA CEO Roy Priest said Adkins was slated for redevelopment first in part because of its prime location near the Braddock Road Metro station and to help the families there find alternative accommodations.

“The main reason I think was that because we felt that its location, that it was probably one of the premier sites that we had and we wanted to start there,” Priest said. “A couple of shootings have occurred this past year on the site or somewhere near the site, and so there were a lot of community concerns about issues around that.”

Developer Clark Realty will partner with ARHA under its affiliate Alexandria Opportunity Housing, LLC, to redevelop Adkins and Madden. Hopkins-Tancil and the ARHA headquarters will be redeveloped by EYA, Penrose and JBG, while Cameron Valley’s development partners will be Bozzuto and Wesley Housing.

It marks a significant departure for ARHA from its redevelopment of the Ramsey Homes last year, which was carried out by its own development arm, Virginia Housing Development, LLC. The Parker-Gray Historic District’s Board of Architectural Review granted the project a certificate of appropriateness at its December 14 meeting, after city council approved a revised plan that calls for 52 mixed-income units in one four-story building.

It took more than a year for ARHA and the city to work out their differences on the project, with staff from both parties eventually agreeing on a work plan. Priest said having private developers could help the upcoming projects, especially since the sites are so different.

The joint work group between the city and ARHA will continue to monitor the situation, with the authority’s board chair and vice chair serving alongside planning commission chairwoman Mary Lyman, City Councilor John Chapman and Vice Mayor Justin Wilson, as well as staff.

Wilson said there is great optimism about these upcoming projects, especially after Ramsey Homes was approved.

“On the heels of that from the Ramsey Homes, I think will help as we go forward with these RFP properties,” he said. “Generally speaking, I think there’s a lot of excitement about this pro- cess that I’m hearing in the community, and particularly about Adkins. It’s a landmark location right across from the Braddock Road Metro station, the gateway to that neighborhood, and I think we have an opportunity to do something really special there.”

ARHA will apply for low-income housing tax credits from the Virginia Housing Development Authority to help fund the projects, in addition to loans and federal grants. Priest said if approved, the Adkins project would apply for the tax credits in March 2018, with the Ramsey Homes set to compete for credits this spring.

In addition to the work to redevelop the five ARHA properties, Wilson said the work group will continue to look at updating Resolution 830, modernizing its language and expanding its scope. The resolution requires the city to fully replace public housing units that are demolished, but Wilson said it should be updated to reflect the fact that ARHA is now no longer the only provider of affordable housing, but rather one of a slew of other agencies and nonprofits that do so.

But not everyone is so sure that the resolution should be altered. At city council’s November 29 legislative meeting, Mayor Allison Silberberg said she was “surprised” to hear of discussions around changing the language, and said modernization could mean different things to different people.

“That phrasing is really a euphemism for changing a calculation that has worked here for a long time,” she said. “I think that that’s something that requires a great deal of thought. It’s not just about some things are out of date and therefore we’re going to update it. It’s much more than that, it seems to me, and it affects people’s lives. We need to be very careful about that.”

Wilson said the conversations are just beginning around Resolution 830, and will involve all stakeholders.

“It’s a needed discussion, it’s a conversation we need to have as a community and we shouldn’t fear that conversation,” he said. “I think it’s an important conversation and it’s one that I think many groups over the years have recommended that we have. Now’s a perfect time. The landscape has changed dramatically. It’s time to have our resolutions reflect that.”

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