Monday, September 25, 2006

The Adkins Diet

The Growler has just seen the future of public housing in our neighborhood, and it looks like ... more public housing!

Tonight the ole Curmudgeon ambled down to the Ladrey Highrise for the monthly ARHA Board meeting, and thus was present when developer EYA laid out what should have been a very exciting proposal for the redevelopment of Glebe Park.

If you remember, Glebe Park is the crumbling ARHA property on Glebe Road with 65 shuttered units, a mold problem beyond remediation, a $6 million mortgage, and an annual operating loss of $500,000, with nary a penny forthcoming from HUD to fix this mess.

Earlier this year, ARHA invited bids for the redevelopment of Glebe Park and as a sweetener offered any other ARHA properties that might take a developer's fancy.

EYA, which built Chatham Square as well as the Braddock Lofts and other major projects in Alexandria, responded with a bold proposal. Let us redevelop Glebe Park, they said, but throw in Andrew Adkins as well as James Bland and James Bland Addition. All three will be redeveloped by EYA as mixed public housing-market unit projects like Chatham Square while meeting the City's mandate that public housing units can be replaced but not reduced.

Right about now, the Growler would be swooning with rapture at the prospect of EYA redeveloping Andrew Adkins and other nearby ARHA sites.

But then the numbers were laid out, and the Cranky One got even crankier.

EYA proposes replacing 90 public housing units at Andrew Adkins with 153 public housing units and 45 market units (all of which would face Braddock Lofts). EYA officials told the Growler that the Adkins units would be one or two-bedroom units, not three and four-bedroom units, which is the current configuration. But this means an absolute increase in the number of low income households shoehorned into Adkins -- some 58% more households in public housing units on the same land.

This proposal also seems out of synch with the Braddock Road Small Area Plan and whatever economic development that the City wants to achieve at the Metro station. We all know that the major reason Braddock Road never took off commercially was the menacing presence of poorly designed and policed public housing. What chance does it have with even more low-income residents thrown into the mix?

By contrast, the neighbors of the James Bland projects will walk away the big winners if EYA's proposal is accepted by ARHA. James Bland and James Bland Addition currently have 194 public housing units, but under EYA's proposal this concentration will be diluted to 65 public housing units, 186 market units and 20 affordable housing units.

Why does Bland get this favorable treatment?

EYA's proposal is still a paper plan and subject to change as negotiations begin with ARHA and the City. The Growler can only hope that EYA and the politicians rethink the mix at Braddock Road Metro, which EYA officials themselves described as the "premier site" of the three locations for redevelopment.