Fatal Delay in Alexandria?

Fatal Delay in Alexandria?

Andrew Adkins redevelopment could be endangered.

“There is a possibility this is really missing the boat.” — Planning Commissioner Chair Mary Lyman

Currently, there are 90 units of affordable housing at the Andrew Adkins Housing public housing community. The properties, owned by Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA), are at the center of plans for redevelopment that will bring the number of affordable housing units at the location to 60 units.

The number of affordable units at the redeveloped Andrew Adkins has been the subject of an ongoing fight between ARHA leadership and the City Council. Thirty more units will be built off site to fulfill the city requirement that lost affordable housing units be replaced on a one-to-one basis, but in June the City Council emphasized that the Adkins location should be gaining affordable housing units, not losing them. As the new legislative session begins, it’s beginning to look like the redevelopment project will most likely not meet the deadlines for tax credits in the spring.

At their first Planning Commission meeting of the fall, members brought up the Adkins project and asked for an update from staff.

“The Adkins project hasn’t moved along and hit its timelines in the way we all anticipated,” said Commissioner Melissa McMahon. “I don’t expect a presentation tonight from staff, not on the docket, but I wanted to mention that it’s a surprise and a concern to me.”

Nearly every member of the commission spoke up on the topic, expressing concerns to the city staff.

“I was startled and dismayed when I heard about this,” said Commissioner Stephen Koenig. “I think this project occupies a very important part of what the city has planned. I think the more salient issue, and the more time critical for discussions with the public public, is the fact that … [the project] is now missing 2018 tax cycle. It is now effectively being delayed a year.”

With discussions at a national level of a federal budget that pulls back on funding for public housing projects, members of the commission expressed concerns that a delay of one year could mean that the project is not funded at all.

“Given current administration and trends we’ve seen lately, there is every possibility there will not be a tax credit in 2019,” said Planning Commissioner Chair Mary Lyman. “There is a possibility this is really missing the boat. That seems to be where we are at the moment.”

According to Karl Moritz, director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Alexandria, in August both ARHA and the private development partner, Clark Realty (CRC) told the city they would not be able to meet the tax credit deadline in March 2018. According to Moritz, arguments with the city over the fundamental questions about how much housing there should be at the site delayed progress in other issues like site design, meaning the concept that should have been submitted to city staff for review this summer for approval early next year is still months away from completion.

“The city staff has at all points said if there is a way to conceivably get to the 2018 deadline, we would do what is possible,” said Moritz. “This was not staff’s decision or encouragement on the timeline. It was reported by the development team.”

According to Lyman, even members of the city governance are unclear about the status of the redevelopment project.

“There are some … how shall I characterize it, different parties have seen what was supposed to happen in different ways,” said Lyman. “Part of that was in confidential discussions between ARHA and the developer. That issue is getting worked out but that has not happened yet. It is unfortunate.”

McMahon said she hopes that, while it isn’t on the docket, there will be more discussion of the Adkins project at the Planning Commission’s public hearing in the Oswald Durant center on Sept. 7.