From its headquarters at the corner of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, in the heart of Anacostia’s historic downtown, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) emanates public policy decisions that will unquestionably have a transformative impact on the neighborhood’s near and long-term future.
Now into its eighth calendar year of ownership of the “Big K” lot on the 2200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, DHCD has weathered changes in mayoral administrations, executive leadership, and agency staff. With construction of Maple View Flats now getting underway, there is mounting internal and external pressure on the city to execute on a development that will have a generational impact on the neighborhood’s streetscape and built environment.
Current staffers of DHCD, from career employees all the way up the ladder to its director, are aware of the historical significance of the Big K lot and the nearly hundreds of community meetings over the past decade.
In speaking with agency officials for this story, there appears an increased level of sensitivity and commitment to strengthening existing relationships and building new ones.
Following the relocation of two remaining historic houses to a DHCD-owned vacant lot on the 1300 block of W Street, in April the Big K Liquor store, at 2252 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, built in 1906 by grocer James Conway, was razed. Soon thereafter, earth work began, and in recent weeks a pile driver has been pounding the soil during weekdays and Saturday mornings.
Before the frame of the four-story Maple View Flats is constructed, a two-story underground garage will be built during the next two to three months.
Neighborhood speculation, that DHCD would acquire Children of Mine at 2263 Mount View Place SE and two adjacent vacant properties on lots on the other side of an alley running behind Big K to expand the footprint of Maple Views Flats, appears to be unfounded. In recent weeks, new plywood boards have appeared over the windows of the Southeast Neighborhood House on Maple View Place.
Class A Retail
In an attempt to secure a Class A retailer for the ground floor of Maple View Flats, Tim Chapman of Chapman Development attended last month’s RECon, the world’s largest retail real estate convention, with more than 1,200 exhibitors, in Las Vegas. Whether a connection was made that could alter the future landscape of the project has yet to be seen.
Although Chapman Development closed on a $50 million financing package bundled from multiple sources in January, there are emerging legal questions, according to DHCD’s deputy director Allison Ladd, because of the significant portion of funding that comes from low-income housing tax credits. “Any change at the site would have to comply with the IRS 4-percent tax credits,” Ladd told East of the River.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the IRS can recapture tax credits if a project fails to comply, or if there are housing-code or fair-housing violations. There are two levels of tax credit, 9 percent and 4 percent, formally known as the applicable percentages. Projects can combine 9 percent and 4 percent tax credits.
“If the ground-floor space is going to be Class A Retail, there is an analysis that needs to be done about the use of low-income housing tax credits to fund the construction of that space,” said Ladd.
No timeline for a study has been set.
Reconstruction of Historic Homes
According to DHCD, the two halved homes currently on the W Street lot, formerly 2234 and 2238 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, will be reassembled by mid-July. Full restoration is then expected to take six to eight months. Stormwater management and partitioning of the properties will take priority.
Once the historic homes are rehabilitated, plans are to construct three more homes on site. Architectural designs passed through the Historic Preservation Review Board in late 2015. Housing in all five housing units on the W Street lot is planned to be affordable.
At the most recent meeting in the long-running history of the Big K development – held in a new location at 2235 Shannon Place, the former Curtis Brothers warehouse and former police evidence warehouse – the neighborhood was introduced to a new DHCD representative, J. Forrest Hayes, a familiar face from his previous position as associate director of the Department of General Services.
With construction pending, there would appear to be a fresh start to the process, but at last month’s meeting a handful of older residents raised longstanding questions pertaining to city development projects, while others questioned the development’s income restrictions.
Bob Ridley, a resident of the neighborhood for a quarter-century, asked why he hadn’t seen any local men working on the site’s demolition and earth work. Leonard Watson, a regular presence at community meetings throughout Ward 8, asked about the participation of locally based certified business enterprises.
A date for the next public meeting has not yet been set.
For more information on the Maple View Flats development visit https://dhcd.dc.gov or follow DHCD on Twitter @DCDHCD.