- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Baby boomers who grew up in the Samuel Madden Homes in Old Town, a public housing project, couldn’t dream that someday people would camp out overnight in their zeal to buy a $500,000 or $1 million home in that location, now known as Chatham Square.

Even recent Samuel Madden Homes residents, many of whom will return to live in the affordable rental units that will be part of Chatham Square, probably never expected to be neighbors of people who can afford that kind of home.

Chatham Square, a mixed-income development by Eakin/Youngentob Associates, is just one example of many redevelopment ventures in the Washington area and around the nation.

Supported by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Hope VI program, approved in 1992, public housing projects are undergoing revitalization aimed at developing mixed-income communities.

“There are two dynamics driving mixed-income development nationally, but they are especially strong here in D.C.,” says Harry D. Sewell, a project manager for the Arthur Capper Carrollsburg in Southeast D.C. for Mid City Urban LLC.

“First, there’s a realization that something needs to be done about the aging public housing in this country, along with a general recognition that an over-concentration of low-income people in one area doesn’t work,” he says. “In D.C., we also have the [Mayor Anthony A.] Williams administration goal of bringing in 100,000 more people to live in the city over the next five to 10 years.

“Developing these mixed-income projects provides an opportunity for more market-rate housing for families who want to move into D.C.,” Mr. Sewell says.

While Hope VI projects are relatively new, the idea of people with different incomes living together in the same community has a long tradition.

“If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ you’ve seen a successful mixed-income community,” says John McIlwain, a senior resident fellow with the Urban Land Institute. “It wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s, when developers began building suburbs, that people broke away from mixed-income communities and embraced the idea that everyone wants to live with people like themselves.

“The idea that a return to mixed-income development would be healthy has been around within housing circles for the past 20 or 30 years,” Mr. McIlwain says. “The ‘New Urbanist’ movement advocates mixed-income communities all over the country.

“Public housing was designed originally for working families, people with low incomes or a temporary hardship,” Mr. McIlwain says. “As their income climbed, families were allowed to stay in the community to add stability to the neighborhood. But in the 1970s and 1980s, the rules changed to concentrate on the poorest of the poor, so people with low to moderate incomes wanted to get out. This meant that poor people were all concentrated in one area. Now we’re coming back to some common sense on housing for low-income people.”

One issue with revitalizing public housing is that when some properties are torn down, a smaller number of low-income units will be built. It means that not everyone can return to their former location.

At Chatham Square in Alexandria, 100 units of public housing will be replaced with 100 for-sale homes and 52 affordable rentals. Another 48 units of affordable rentals will be built in another nearby development, so an equal number of subsidized homes will be available to replace the original Samuel Madden Homes.

“Alexandria is probably the only city that has a one-for-one replacement agreement when it comes to public housing,” says Mel Miller, chairman of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA).

“That was one of the problems during our struggle to redevelop Samuel Madden, because we needed to negotiate the density of the future housing with the city of Alexandria,” he says.

Samuel Madden Homes, built in the 1940s near Pitt and Pendleton streets near the Potomac River in Old Town, had deteriorated in recent years.

It took 10 years for the ARHA and the city of Alexandria to negotiate with residents of the housing project and their neighbors for the eventual Chatham Square project.

“Obviously, in the 1940s, this was not considered a great area, but since then, the value of the land in this part of Alexandria has gone up and up,” Mr. Miller says. “When we decided to redevelop the neighborhood, we went through all sorts of problems, initially because the residents wanted to redevelop it themselves.

“Ultimately, that was resolved in our favor, but then we had to negotiate about the density of the development with the city,” Mr. Miller says. “Eventually, we worked out that issue and brought in Eakin/Youngentob Associates as the developer. We hit another snag when the residents filed suit against HUD over the project, but eventually we worked that out with the residents, as well.” In addition to wanting to redevelop the property themselves, some residents took issue with the project’s proposed density.

The ARHA, as well, initially faced opposition from the community because some neighbors wanted the public housing torn down and replaced with all market-rate housing. The ARHA was able to work with the neighbors to satisfy their concerns about mixed-income housing.

“It was an interesting thing, but by the time we faced the town planning commission, no one spoke against the mixed-income concept at all,” Mr. Miller says. “By then, I guess, everyone was fairly comfortable that it would work.

“Chatham Square is a very unique project in that the public housing is interspersed among the others, not tucked away in some separate corner,” Mr. Miller says. “This will be one development that people will look at as an example of how mixed use can be done.”

Says Matt Birenbaum, senior vice president of Eakin/Youngentob Associates, “We are selling 100 … town homes at Chatham Square, and the 52 affordable rental homes within the development are configured to look like town homes.

“Most of the rentals are in eight mixed-income buildings with one level of parking underground and four back-to-back town homes, which face the street,” Mr. Birenbaum says.

“Six rentals are within that space, including two ground-floor flats and four two-story units above,” he says. “There are also four rental homes in Chatham Square which are three-story town homes.”

Chatham Square will feature brick and siding facades in keeping with other homes in Old Town, along with landscaped courtyards and brick walkways and stoops.

The market-rate Chatham Square town homes, which are anticipated to be priced from the high $500,000s to more than $1 million, will each have four finished levels and a two-car garage. Many will also include a roof terrace.

Interior features in the market-rate homes will include hardwood flooring on the main level; crown and chair-rail moldings; a gas fireplace; oak stairs; high ceilings; an advanced home wiring system; a security system; two-zone heat and air conditioning; granite kitchen counters; 42-inch cabinets and state-of-the-art appliances; and a master bath with ceramic-tile floors, a tub and a glass-enclosed shower.

“The exterior architecture of the development is seamless, and the entire community will be governed by a homeowner’s association, which will ensure that the courtyards and exterior maintenance are kept up,” Mr. Birenbaum says.

“There are differences in the finish levels on the interior of the market-rate homes and the affordable homes,” Mr. Birenbaum says. “The rentals won’t have the luxury features of the other homes, but each has central air conditioning, a dishwasher, and a washer and dryer.”

Eakin/Youngentob Associates held a preview opening at Chatham Square in late February and already has a list of 1,000 people interested in purchasing one of the town homes.

“The mix of public and private housing has been a part of Old Town Alexandria for so long that this project hasn’t been seriously opposed,” Mr. Birenbaum says. “We’ve had a very positive response from the public. In fact, we had several people camping out before the sales office opened, so we had to create a priority list so they wouldn’t stay.

“It’s exciting to see people embrace this concept of mixed-income housing,” he says. “It’s really part of the national move to scattered-site low-income housing rather than isolated public housing developments.”

According to Mr. Birenbaum, “One thing that makes this development unusual is that no federal grants were needed for the rental units at Chatham Square. The rental units were financed through the value of the land purchase by Eakin/Youngentob along with federal low-income tax credits.

“Most mixed-income developments require significant federal grants, but this shows you that if you structure it right, with more than half the development at market rate, you don’t need the federal grants,” he says.

Says Mr. Miller, “While Chatham Square didn’t need any grant money, we did use federal grant money for the development of the additional 48 off-site rental units.”

The ARHA will own the rental units and control the selection of tenants for those homes.

“A committee of former residents, ARHA staff and neighbors will work together to come up with the standards which must be met in order to live in the rental units,” Mr. Miller says. “First priority will be given to former residents of the public housing, but they will still need to meet federal income levels for this type of housing.

“All of this is also controlled by the size of the housing. At Chatham Square, each unit will have two or three bedrooms, so we cannot underpopulate or overpopulate them,” he says. “We’re receiving tax credits from the state, too, so their requirements must be met, as well.”

Once a mixed-income project is complete, the community needs strong management to ensure continued success.

“Mixed-income developments tend to have people with very different cultural norms, and you need to have a property manager who’s strong enough to make sure everyone follows the rules,” Mr. McIlwain says.

“Some people are used to having outdoor barbecues with loud music, a lot of friends and drinking, while others enjoy a quieter form of entertainment. It’s actually doable, to have everyone live together in one community as long as everyone is willing to follow the rules.”

Mr. McIlwain points to the Ellen Wilson Dwellings, now known as the Townhomes on Capitol Hill, as an example of a successful mixed-income development.

“Ellen Wilson looks like a middle-class neighborhood, and its design is contextual to the whole area,” Mr. McIlwain says. “They combined good housing design with a sense of building a strong community. What made this project successful was the quality and value of the design and construction, along with strong management and strong tenant selection.”

The Townhomes on Capitol Hill, developed by Telesis Corp., is a limited-equity cooperative, which means that residents buy a share in the development and pay a monthly fee. This plan allows lower-income families to own property with lower-than-conventional down payments and monthly payments that would be partially subsidized by higher-income families.

Of the 134 new units in this development, 34 are reserved for households with incomes below 25 percent of the area median, 33 for households between 25 and 50 percent of the median, and 67 units for households between 50 and 115 percent.

Another ambitious mixed-income project, known currently as Arthur Capper Carrollsburg, is under development by Mid City Urban near the Navy Yard in Southeast Washington.

This Hope VI project will replace more than 700 dilapidated public housing units with both rental and for-sale units in condominiums and town homes, a senior housing building, office space, and retail space.

“We’re including both … ownership and rental units in this development,” Mr. Sewell says. “We’ll have three levels of ownership, starting with 50 units in a Section 8 program which has now been approved for ownership rather than just rentals.

“People can choose either a lump-sum Section 8 payment to help them get started, or they can spread out the payment for 15 years to help with the monthly payments,” Mr. Sewell says. “We’ll also have another band of ownership with income requirements of up to 115 percent of median income, which is geared to teachers, police and firefighters.

“The third band will be market-rate housing. The prices for these places will depend on the market, but we’re estimating that the Section 8 places will be priced from the mid- to high $100,000s; the affordable homes in the second tier will be priced from the mid-$200,000s; and the market-rate homes, which will be a little larger, will be in the $300,000s or even $400,000s.

“The town homes will vary in size from 14 to 24 feet wide,” Mr. Sewell says.

The Arthur Capper Carrollsburg development will also include rental housing at market rates and public housing supported by low-income tax credits. The development, which will cover 33 acres in Southeast, will also include a park.

The Hope VI grant for this revitalization project was approved in 2001, but the land-planning process for this wide swath of land has been rigorous.

“The Hope VI revitalization is really just the tip of the spear,” Mr. Sewell says. “The higher-income rentals and homeownership opportunities are what will help build this into a better community.

“At Arthur Capper Carrollsburg, people will have an opportunity to live, work, shop, recreate and worship all within their neighborhood. We’ve already developed a waiting list of people interested in moving into the city or who live in the city and want to own a home,” Mr. Sewell says. “We’re breaking ground this spring on the senior housing building, and we estimate the entire effort will easily take five or six years.”

At Arthur Capper Carrollsburg, the D.C. Housing Authority will work with current residents who want to return to the development after renovation, and it will offer support services to the community to help them with job training and financial planning for eventual homeownership.

The Housing Authority will also be working with residents to choose a new name for the community as it develops.

“Most people believe that these Hope VI projects are a powerful way to revitalize a neighborhood,” Mr. McIlwain says. “Not just to revitalize the project itself, but also the whole area. When you see new housing developments going in nearby, neighbors fixing up their homes and property values going up, you can see that the effort has been successful.”

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