Interim director faces redevelopment issues

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The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority has a new interim director. The board voted Monday night to appoint Roy Prest to the job while they conduct a national search for a permanent executive.

ARHA Board Chairman A. Melvin Miller had served as the interim director since William Dearmans retirement in mid-May. I filled in only until we could get someone who could come for the long-term, Miller said. Mr. Prest is highly qualified and will do a good job for us.

As for Prest, hell have to count on his extensive business and government background to help the housing authority overcome a couple of major issues it faces, chief among them the redevelopment of Glebe Park.

Before becoming an independent consultant, Prest served as the executive director for the National Congress of Community Economic Development for seven years. Before that, he spent 17 years at the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, mostly in planning and economic development positions. He will come to ARHA later this week but will be absent for short periods of time throughout the summer to fulfill previous commitments. When he is away, the board has authorized Miller to act on the agencys behalf.

We have a Request for Proposal out, soliciting firms to assist us in our search for a permanent executive director, Miller said. Responses are due by June 28 and we hope to select a firm shortly after that. The search could take a significant amount of time because of the complex issues involved in running a Housing Authority.

Issue #1
The current major issue is the redevelopment of Glebe Park, the 152-unit property in the 800 block of W. Glebe Road. The city/ARHA working group met last week and city staff is preparing a memorandum recommending that council approve a $5.7 million loan to ARHA so that the Authority can pay off the outstanding mortgage on Glebe Park. Councilman Rob Krupicka, who is a member of that group said, I am not quite certain under what conditions we will make that loan, but that is going to be the recommendation to Council. In addition, we want to develop a master plan for East Braddock, which will include many of the ARHA properties. That will allow us to look at public housing in a holistic way rather than piecemeal, said Krupicka.

East Braddock would include James Bland and James Bland Addition, Ramsay Homes, Andrew Atkins and Samuel Madden Uptown. We dont object to that, Miller said, but we need to make sure that while that is happening, we can move ahead with the redevelopment of James Bland and James Bland Addition. Those are tied to our redevelopment of Glebe Park. The money that will come from the sale of the market-rate units at Bland and Bland Addition will pay for Glebe Park.

A proposal to redevelop those three properties is ready to come to the Planning Commission and to City Council but was put on hold when the Virginia Housing Development Authority rejected ARHAs application for low-income tax credits to help finance the project. If we are going to apply for tax credits again next year, we have to do so in February. Before that, we have to get through the Special Use Permit process on Glebe Park and know what we are going to be allowed to do at the other two properties, Miller said.

Solution sought
The Glebe Park redevelopment has its own problems. A number of neighborhood groups oppose the ARHA/Eakin Young proposal to replace the 152 units with around 100 units of public housing and six one bedroom market rate units. Mayor Bill Euille has appointed a stakeholders group, comprised of nearby neighbors, to look at options.

The stakeholders group will continue to meet over the summer and bring forward a report in September, Krupicka said. We hope that they can agree on a solution that will work for everybody.

The $5.7 million loan will be discussed at the last council meeting in June because ARHA needs to pay off the mortgage soon or face foreclosure from HUD. We really need to move on Glebe Park as soon as possible because the longer we wait the more units we will have to close there, Miller said. More than 90 of them are now uninhabitable and that is only going to increase.

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