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ARHA Briefed On "The New Berg"

July 25, 2002

Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) Board of Commissioners got their first in-depth introduction to "The New Berg" Monday night.

Eakin/Youngentob, the developer selected by ARHA to redevelop Samuel Madden Homes Downtown, made a comprehensive presentation addressing not only the physical redevelopment of the site but also many of the social aspects the ambitious plan incorporates.

Throughout the nearly one hour powerpoint session, Robert Youngentob, EY President, and Scott Nordheimer, Senior Advisor to Mid City Urban, the company partnering with EY on the project, discussed design details and social goals of transforming the existing public housing site into what they hope will become "a model for the rest of the nation."

Youngentob said that his firm currently builds between 200 and 300 housing units per year with annual sales of approximately $100 million. He emphasized they specialize in urban infill projects both at the upper scale and for mixed income residents.

"We have built a variety of projects in Alexandria which actually surround this one," Youngentob noted. "Our focus has been on Alexandria, Arlington, the District, and Montgomery County." Other EY projects in Alexandria include Rivergate, Ford's Landing, and, their latest, The Lofts, in the Braddock Road Metro Station area.

MID CITY URBAN is the largest local Hope VI developer with projects in various parts of the nation, according to Nordheimer. He explained that one of their main goals, as a partner in this project, was to ensure that the property values are maintained in the mixed use development.

"The market rate homes are probably going to be in the $500,000 bracket. But we have found through our experience that people don't mind living with low income people. What they want are good neighbors," Nordheimer emphasized.

Youngentob explained that their plan calls for only 152 units rather than the maximum 170 units possible for the project area. "We could have gone with the 170 units and it would have been more profitable. But, it would have increased the density and cut down on the open space," he said.

"By designing for only 152 units we were able to lower the parking requirements, offer a larger average unit size, have equal density on both blocks, and improve the market value/land value for the non-ARHA units," Youngentob explained.

OF THE 152 UNITS, 52 will be ARHA-assisted units and 100 will be market value units. Included within the ARHA units will be 12 to 14 accessible units. None of the market units will be designed for handicap accessibility, according to Youngentob.

Upon completion, the development, bounded by Pitt, Royal, Pendleton, and Princess streets, will include 25 percent open space and adhere to all requirements as spelled out in both the Old Town North Design Guidelines and Old Town North Area Plan, Youngentob assured the Board. It will also comply with city parking requirements pertaining to new developments of two spaces per unit.

"All units will look alike. They will blend together. Each is designed to look like an individual town home from the outside. They are all wood frame with a brick veneer," he said.

There will be five ARHA unit options in eight multi-level buildings of 10 units each. Six of the units will be ARHA and four will be market rate. An underground parking garage for each building will be accessed from an internal street, according to Youngentob. These units will be evenly divided between two and three bedroom possibilities. Twenty four will have private yards.

MARKET UNITS will be three and four level townhomes each with an incorporated two car garage. The garages will open onto the same internal access street. All units will be sold with a fee simple title, Youngentob specified. Dispersed within these will be the other four ARHA units.

The timeline for the projects calls for EY to file in September for their Special Use Permit with development to begin in March 2003. It is anticipated the first units will be ready for occupancy in March 2004 with final completion of all aspects by December 2005. According to ARHA, they hope to complete contract negotiations with EY by this October.

Following the presentation, the only questions raised concerning the design concept came from Commissioner Shirley Marshall. She asked Youngentob if they had considered having scattered set-backs to lessen the impression "of a wall effect" on the street and if there was sufficient screening on the internal, garage access street, to prevent children from darting into the path of vehicles.

His answer to the first was that if they adopted a scattered set- back design it would lessen the total open space area. They hope to achieve the same affect by the use of differentiating doorways and a mixture of bay and flat windows.

As to the safety question, Youngentob expressed the opinion that the landscaping was such that the break between the vehicle pathway and the yards would create a clear delineation.

IN OTHER ACTION, the Commission voted to approve:

* A $244,500 contract for landscaping services throughout ARHA holdings. Commissioner Carter Flemming raised the point as to whether or not this was both fiscally prudent and if it did not fly in the face of finding viable employment for ARHA residents. ARHA Executive Director, William Dearman, noted that ARHA has been unsuccessful in getting residents to apply for these position. Overall the Board decided that professional landscapers would contribute to enhancing ARHA properties and, thereby, the community at large.

* The advertisement of bids for a demolition contractor for the Samuel Madden Homes (Downtown) Redevelopment.