The City’s New Czar

The City’s New Czar

Ever since folks started calling the director of National Drug Control Policy a “drug czar,” the title has taken on a life of its own. Now City Hall has one: Helen McIlvaine, who is the new deputy director of the Office of Housing in charge of coordinating the city’s affordable-housing efforts. But Mayor Bill Euille had a different title in mind.

“I don’t know if anybody told you when you were hired, but you are the affordable housing czar,” Euille told her Tuesday during the City Council meeting.

“I won’t say anything about the history of the word ‘czar,’” McIlvaine said. “But I will do as much as I can for affordable housing in the city.”

After welcoming McIlvaine, the City Council voted to loan a nonprofit organization $3.5 million to help it acquire Arbelo Apartments on Bashford Lane. The money will go to the Robert Pierre Johnson Housing Development Corporation, also known as “RPJ,” which plans to spend $6 million to acquire the 34-unit apartment building.

“RPJ’s intent is to operate the property as affordable housing in perpetuity,” wrote City Manager Jim Hartmann in his recommendation to approve the loan. “RPJ does not plan to displace any current residents.”

The loan will be funded with previously authorized obligation bonds at an interest of 2 percent. Arbelo Apartments contains eight efficiency apartments, 6 one-bedroom units and 20 two-bedroom units. If the nonprofit organization is successful in its purchase, the building will serve as housing for those who qualify for the federal low-income housing credit.


Noise from a Hoe Ram

In the early morning hours of Sunday — only a few hours before the sun came up — many Old Town residents were awakened by a series of loud noises. The racket was coming from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, where a hoe ram was being used to demolish parts of a ramp.

“I actually went out to see it,” said Councilman Paul Smedberg, who lives near the bridge. “It had sparks flying out of it, and it looked like something out of a Terminator movie.”

The controversial hoe ram could be heard all over south Old Town, and even some north Old Town residents complained to council members. Michael Baker, an environmental manager for Potomac Crossing Consultants, explained that the operation took place in the middle of the night because the demolition took place above an existing roadway.

“We’ve got another four nights of this operation,” Baker said.

Old Town residents who live near the bridge can expect the hoe ram to gin up again from 7:30 p.m. to midnight on April 12. And then it will be used again from April 21 to 23.

“It really caused a lot of concern,” Smedberg said. “People were wondering what was going on.”


A Race for Kelley

For years, Kelley Swanson was the star of T.C. Williams High School’s soccer team. She was full of life, and everyone knew it. That’s why her unexpected death from a rare bacterial infection last year was so tragic. It cut short a life full of promise.

Her family and friends are determined to honor her memory. They’ve already created a scholarship in her honor, and now a memorial race is being scheduled this summer. On Tuesday, the City Council voted to approve a request to hold a race through Del Ray on June 3.

“For many years, she served as a volunteer, working with youth who have special needs,” wrote City Manager Jim Harmann in his recommendation for approval of the proposal. “She worked with children and teens through the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities Therapeutic Recreation Program, both with the Youth Opportunity Sports Basketball Program and the Tops Soccer Program.”

The 5K run/walk will start at 8 a.m. in the parking lot of George Washington Middle School, heading through Del Ray and then ending back at the school.

“Kelley Swanson lived much of her life in the Del Ray area, and we believe this is a fitting tribute to her legacy,” wrote Del Ray Citizens Association President Laurie MacNamara in support of the proposal.