Alexandria Public Housing Redevelopment Falls Through

Alexandria Public Housing Redevelopment Falls Through

The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) terminated plans to redevelop the Andrew Adkins public housing site, simultaneously announcing that it will reevaluate its larger property portfolio and redevelopment outlook.

After nearly two years of negotiations, “ARHA has determined that it is not possible for this project to move forward with the proposed financial structure. Rising construction costs were certainly a contributing factor,” said ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew in a press release on Friday, July 27. “ARHA was and continues to be committed to the redevelopment of Andrew Adkins. … [B]ut the modifications to certain financial aspects of the deal and other concessions requested by the Development Partner [CRC] were not in the best interest of ARHA or the community it serves.” He declined to give specifics, citing confidentiality.

The press release added: “[ARHA] is undertaking an updated evaluation of its real estate portfolio, including the sites previously designated several years ago for redevelopment. The assessment will be completed over a several month period, and will provide ARHA with the necessary market and other information required to address the sequencing of each property to be redeveloped.”

“While [the setback with Adkins] is disappointing, I think it’s important that the deal be right for ARHA and its residents, our residents,” said Mayor Allison Silberberg.

“[ARHA and CRC] have been negotiating for a while, but they just couldn’t get there,” said Vice Mayor Justin Wilson in an email. “We had worked long and hard to get to a place where the affordable housing program was something that the community could live with and appeared to be financially viable. Now that we believe we have that, we need to lock that in. I have asked that we proceed with the zoning/master plan amendment process so that the work that has occurred over the past few years is not a waste. Done right, this should allow ARHA to move forward with a new development partner who is bought-in on the economics of development of this site from the beginning.”

Wilson’s statement refers in part to the city increasing density allowances on the Adkins site. These increases were intended to enable the developer to build a big enough building(s) with enough units to make the deal economically worthwhile and sustainable. Enshrining those allowances could help attract a new developer and expedite the subsequent process.

The economic calculus also includes negotiating how many public housing replacement units should accompany the market-rate build on-site, and how many should be replaced elsewhere.

The latest plan with CRC, before it fell through, included 74 public housing units on-site and 16 offsite, according to Helen McIlvaine, the city’s housing director. The on-site mix of affordability levels and the off-site location had yet to be determined. The market-rate component would have included some 500 apartments, with some “workforce”-priced units sprinkled in.

“It was good to see that the decision [to cancel the project] was made in the best interest of residents. Hopefully when it’s revisited we’ll have an opportunity to get all 90 units back, or more,” said Kevin Harris, president of the ARHA Resident Association.

Michelle Krocker, executive director of the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, an advocacy organization, said in an email: “I hope that what comes forward for Andrew Adkins and the other ARHA properties scheduled for redevelopment are proposals that align more closely to the city’s Housing Master Plan and the spirit of Resolution 830 [a city-ARHA agreement to replace demolished public housing one-for-one]. If we are to be an inclusive and equitable city, we must provide housing options for all of the low-income households displaced by redevelopment to return to these new neighborhoods of opportunity that are created,” she said.

CRC did not respond to a request for comment by press deadline.