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Cotton Helps Save Island Walk

Community center named after Cotton for her efforts to preserve affordable housing community.

Dee Cotton can finally take a breather. After about six years, Cotton’s effort to save affordable housing at Island Walk came to an end.

For some time, residents of Island Walk, a community cooperative, looked like they were going to be forced to sell their homes to a developer because they couldn’t afford to pay for much-needed capital repairs.

Rather than give up, and based much on Cotton’s efforts, residents chose to redevelop their property with a non-profit, Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC).

By partnering with Fairfax County, Fairfax County Redevelopment Housing Authority, Hudson Housing Capital, and SunTrust, CPDC was able to create a long-term financial structure to preserve the affordable housing community.

While residents became renters, they will be allowed to buy back their property in about 15 years. In the meantime, all the units were reconfigured and an additional 100 square feet were added. The kitchens were opened to the dining and living area to give an even larger sense of space. Each unit also received new mechanicals, fixtures, cabinetry, and flooring. The worn cedar siding and flat roofs were replaced with colorful Hardi-plank siding and pitched roofs to create an attractive setting for the larger community.

“They did such an outstanding job,” said Cotton, the current tenant association president, from outside a new community center for the property that was recently dedicated in her name because of all her efforts.

The eponymous center, which includes a spacious community meeting area and a computer lab with a connection to the Internet, will be free for public use.

“Anybody can use it,” said Cotton, adding that the group, Girl Power, has already had meetings at the center.

Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) was on hand for the first Island Walk Board of Directors meeting held after the renovations at the recently dedicated community center.