Two of the city’s biggest upcoming affordable housing redevelopment projects are located two blocks apart. Representatives for the Ramsey Homes redevelopment and the expansion of the Carpenter Shelter spoke to community and civic leaders from the neighborhood on Sept. 22 to provide an update on the projects.
Alexandria Housing Redevelopment Authority (ARHA) CEO Roy Priest presented three potential proposals for the public space on the south end of the new Ramsey Homes redevelopment. The options favored by ARHA, the city, and seemingly the public in attendance was a design that had trees lining the edge of the park with the center area more open for activities.
In general, the community seemed excited about the potential for the new Ramsey Homes.
“This building is a major improvement,” said Robert Atkinson. “This will be good for the community, with the way it’s massed and the open space phasing towards housing.”
Local residents said they were happy that the design made the public housing feel like a part of the community around it rather than as a separate housing block.
“This makes it part of my neighborhood,” said Abbey Oklak, a local resident. “You start to know each other, you’re not as ostracized. We want that diversity, that community, in our neighborhood.”
The option that raised the most concern was a playground that was proposed to be located on the site.
“There are a lot of playgrounds for small children but not so many for other people who need to use these spaces,” said Judy Noritake, a local resident and a member of the Park and Recreation Commission. But Noritake also said ARHA should consider a broader range of resources at that site, like a giant chessboard. “You’re putting yourself in a box here, this process needs to be more creative.”
Charkenia Walker, a resident of Ramsey Homes, said she was happy with the design of the public space, but wanted to make sure the space was clearly accessible to both residents of Ramsey Homes and the nearby community. Walker said her son was having a picnic at the nearby Post Office Park in the middle of a business center when someone from a nearby establishment told him that he had to leave.
“For shared spaces, there can be a sense of ownership,” said Walker. “It’s tacky to have signage, but we need to communicate and encourage nearby residents to make sure this park is utilized as a truly shared space.”
In October, Ramsey Homes will be returning to the City Council and Planning Commission for review and a loan request.
At a meeting held in the same room afterwards, Jon Frederick, executive director of AHDC, spoke about plans for the new Carpenter Shelter redevelopment. The new building will add 98 units of affordable housing. The units range in incomes and sizes, mostly two-bedroom apartments. Ten apartments will be permanent supportive housing units for residents from the shelter who were formerly homeless.
One remaining challenge for the Carpenter Shelter project is finding a temporary location for its homeless population during the eight months the new building is scheduled to be under construction.
“The city is committed to making sure the people in Carpenter Shelter have a place before any of this starts,” said Eric Keeler, division chief of Program Administration for the Office of Housing.
The project goes to the City Council in December and will apply for tax credit funding in March.