By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
Council voted unanimously to approve the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection’s affordable housing project and a loan of up to $9 million at its public hearing Saturday.
Discussion of the project attracted 27 public speakers, a collection of residents who advocated for, spoke against and suggested amendments to a project that has been almost four years in the works.
While those who spoke against approving the project addressed a number of issues from area density to child safety to building design, their primary concern was parking.
The affordable housing complex to be built at 2280 N. Beauregard St., the site where the Church of the Resurrection currently stands, will be composed of 113 multifamily units. The underground parking garage will have 84 parking spaces. The new smaller church that will be built once the property is redeveloped will provide 28 spaces for a 140-seat chapel.
The project’s greatest opposition has come from Goodwin House, a neighboring life plan community for older adults that is also affiliated with the Episcopal Church.
More than half of Goodwin House’s residents signed a petition outlining concerns about the impact of the project – 170 residents out of the 326 who are not on nursing floors, according to resident Mike McCaffree.
Jackie Phillips, a resident of Goodwin House, urged council to amend the plan, particularly because of the inadequate parking that will be provided onsite, along with the lack of additional parking available on the bordering public roads – Beauregard Street, Braddock Road, Seminary Road and King Street.
“There is no way there would be an objection to the very fine principles in this project. However, there are very real negatives connected to the project,” Phillips said. “You’d be on your feet for over a mile to find a place to park your car. That’s a very real thing … It’s just too impacted to be practical, and certainly not very livable.”
Church of the Resurrection parishioners who spoke acknowledged the parking issues.
“We know we have fewer spaces than we currently use, and we won’t all be able to park at our front door,” said Betsy Faga, chair of the church’s redevelopment committee. “This is a sacrifice for us, but one that we as a congregation considered carefully and decided to accept so that we could realize our goal of affordable housing.”
In addition to the churchgoers’ assurance of flexibility, the project’s site plan includes an overflow parking strategy that has been approved by city staff.
“I think it’s important to emphasize that the parking provided in this proposal meets the city standards, both for affordable housing and for the church,” Councilor Tim Lovain said. “These are reasonable standards, product of experience … The church has expressed their willingness to be very flexible, if it turns out that there are issues that arise with parking, to add a second service or make other changes.”
Helen McIlvaine, the city’s director of housing, said the standards used to determine how much parking the development must establish were created from experience. She said less than half of affordable housing residents owned vehicles at another project of the nonprofit developer, AHC Inc.
Cathy Puskar, the attorney representing Goodwin House, stressed that compromise was possible.
“The petition you received from Goodwin House residents is not in opposition of the project. It is in an effort to improve upon the project. Once again, to make sure that all these competing missions can coexist successfully on the property,” she said.
Before council voted unanimously to approve the plan, Robert Kerns with the Department of Planning & Zoning said city staff would continue exploring additional public parking options such as signage and permitting to find a solution to Sunday church traffic.
Now that council has approved the project’s proposed land use application and loan request, its next step is to apply for low-income housing tax credits through the Virginia Housing Development Authority in March.
“Is our project perfect?” Parishioner Kat Turner asked. “Probably not, but perfection was never our mission. Our mission was love and welcome. What we want to say with this project is all are welcome in our place, in our city, in our lives. All are welcome.”