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Berg Tax Credits Awarded

Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) got a financial boost at their June meeting with the formal awarding of a nine percent tax credit for The Berg redevelopment project.

"This translates into approximately $9.5 million in actual money," according to Connie Lenox, ARHA's administrative director of development. The approval by the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) was critical to the development of the project formally known as Samuel Madden Homes (Downtown).

Their approval was announced at the May meeting but the exact percentage of the award was not solidified at that time. The credits were pivotal in making the innovative project viable to the developer Eakin/Youngentob Associates.

Approval of the credits were put in jeopardy late last year when the Alexandria Resident Council, Inc., filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development challenging the selection of EYA as the developer. Final resolution of that suit is still pending in U.S. District Court, Washington, D.C., but subsequent legal actions by the court removed the cloud from the credit awards.

The tax credits apply not only to The Berg redevelopment but also to the three offsite locations which are part of the overall project, according to Lenox. It was announced at the meeting that demolition at The Berg was almost complete.

Commissioners also heard a presentation from Tise Diamond and Associates concerning the refinancing/rehabilitation of Glebe Park. Steve Tice, president of the firm hired by ARHA to study the site, and Sharon Lowenthal, financing consultant, announced that "the feasibility study is nearly complete."

AT THE APRIL MEETING the firm informed the Commission that they "should only consider redevelopment and not demolition" of their units on West Glebe Road and Old Dominion because "Alexandria zoning would not allow the replacement of the same number of units." There are approximately 150 units presently at the site.

The consultants again reviewed the various options they had outlined at the April meeting before joining the Commissioners in executive session to discuss the various financial aspects. The primary issue pertaining to Glebe Park is, and has been, one of financing.

As pointed out at the meeting "any refinancing will have to allow for partial releases." This could be in conflict with present FHA insured loans policies and procedures.

In other action:

* The Commission had intended to approve project and street names for The Berg but this item was pulled from the agenda when ARHA Chairman Melvin Miller announced that the city has an established process for street names. "It's not our decision," he said. "But, we want to have input." In a memo from ARHA executive director William Dearman to the Commission it had been suggested that the project be named Chatham Square. Dearman also suggested "the street names be Euille, named after our new mayor, and Cook, named after the deputy chief of the fire department; both officials grew up in The Berg and have been supportive of the project." As for the name Chatham Square, Dearman noted, "This name ties into the history of Old Town ... the site borders on Pitt Street, and Pitt was the earl of Chatham."

* Approved a two percent Cost of Living increase for ARHA staff to take effect July 1. This was based on the rationale that the city approved a similar increase for municipal employees to take effect on that date. As Dearman reminded the Commissioners, "ARHA has followed the city's lead in providing Cost of Living Adjustments." The anticipated fiscal impact is estimated at $72,671, according to Dearman. These funds have been included in the 2003 fiscal year budgetary analysis, he noted.