To the Editor:
Hunting Towers, a long-time source of over 500 units of workforce housing, is once again in the news. After culling approximately $30 million in rental profits during its tenure as landlord, VDOT has begun the formal sales process of the property, and is currently in negotiations with the selected buyer.
Both Mayor Wiliam Euille and Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks have recently weighed in on the proposed sale. Mr. Jinks has been quoted as saying “It’s unlikely that 100 percent of the building can be kept affordable — that’s probably not likely at all,” and “clearly keeping some units affordable would be [our] goal.”
“Some” units? I find this surpassingly strange, given that it was just this past May that the City Council passed a strongly worded resolution declaring their intention to do whatever they could to keep all of the Towers as an important source of workforce and affordable housing — which is, of course, a well-documented endangered species in the City of Alexandria.
How is that worthy goal furthered when the deputy city manager is quoted as hoping to keep just “some units” affordable before a final sales contract has even been inked? What message does it send to the new owner? And does that reflect an amended city government mindset on the subject?
Or perhaps it’s not so strange after all. Consider the curious case of the Hunting Terrace garden apartments, another longtime source of workforce housing. Declared to be “past its useful life” and used as a negotiating chip with the council and Planning Commission in a 2008 proposal for redevelopment of both complexes, the owners subsequently closed the Terrace, summarily evicting all residents, some of whom had lived there over 40 years.
And then a year or two later, what do you know –— a little capital investment, and the Terrace was reopened for business — its “useful life” resurrected. Except that now, it’s on the sales block as well, with a glossy ad noting its profitability “as is” on one side, the other side celebrating its potential for demolition and rebirth as a five-story upscale project.
And not a word from the city about it that I’ve noticed — no resolutions, no declarations of good intent, not a word.
Or perhaps none of this is strange at all, in the context of the slow-motion assault on the largest enclave of working class housing in the city in the West End as personified by the Beauregard Plan, or the “vision” of a new-and-improved, scenic and historic public waterfront that to date is centered on new hotels.
And the list hardly ends there. If the rhetoric expended about a “diverse city” was money, we’d all be millionaires. Unfortunately, rhetoric’s just words. Not that there aren’t options. Bonds, for example – in the case of the Towers, arguably self-financing, given that VDOT has regularly reported annual profits in excess of $3 million operating the Towers — a profit rate in the neighborhood of 50 percent. But that possibility apparently never piqued the council’s interest.
All of which is something for voters to keep in mind as we head to the polls in November.
15-year resident of Hunting Towers