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Samuel Madden redevelopment rendering (image via Torti Gallas + Partners/City of Alexandria)

There’s nothing unusual in Alexandria financing an affordable housing project, but one specific request from the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) could set a notable precedent.

The Samuel Madden redevelopment would replace the 66 affordable housing units with a new mixed-use development featuring around 530 units. Two-thirds of those units would be available at various levels of affordability, while the other third would be available at “market rate” –rents without any affordability baked in.

In a report to the City Council from the ARHA redevelopment committee, Mayor Justin Wilson said plans for the Samuel Madden redevelopment project include a request for a tax exemption on the property. While ARHA properties are generally tax-exempt, this project is in partnership with private developers Mill Creek Residential and The Communities Group.

“ARHA properties owned by ARHA are tax exempt, those are off the tax rolls, but when they do a redevelopment that involves a private entity, those projects would go on the tax rolls,” Wilson said. “All the affordable housing projects that exist in the city that are owned by nonprofits do pay taxes. In this case, ARHA is partnering with a private entity, so the ownership structure is a little bit complicated.”

Wilson said that while the city is supportive of the redevelopment project and could contribute additional funding, a tax exemption might open the door for other private affordable housing developers to ask to have their projects taken off the tax rolls.

“Depending on how we sort through that, may or may not be creating a precedent that will have other affordable housing developers and nonprofits come forward and request similar disposition,” Wilson said. “So we need to be thoughtful and careful in how we approach that decision.”

The tax exemption is just one of the financial questions around the redevelopment.

Wilson said the question facing the City Council is whether to loan the money or offer it as a grant. Traditionally, Alexandria loans funding to ARHA, which eventually pays it back to the city with a revolving fund that then goes to fund future affordable housing loans.

“As with any project right now, ARHA is seeing increases in costs,” Wilson said. “The request that we have received and that staff is working on relates to relief for a couple different aspects — some of it is development fees, some of it is questions around whether we are extending a loan or extending grants to support it. ARHA had initially not intended to request city financing, I think they have had to change that approach and they are requesting financial assistance to keep the project viable.”

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Christmas tree (via Sapan Patel/Unsplash)

(Updated 1:45 p.m.) Toy donations are still needed for residents living in Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority properties.

The 13th Annual Santa’s Winter Wonderland event will provide gifts for hundreds of children 17 years old and under.

This year’s  will be drive-thru and held over the course of three days (Dec. 16, 17 and 18) in the parking lot of Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe Street).

Anyone interested in donating items to the toy drive should contact Rose Boyd at [email protected]ARHA.us 

The toy drive is open only to ARHA residents. Participants must register online by December 12. Accommodations can be made for ARHA residents who have challenges participating in the on-site event by calling 703-549-7115.

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A. Melvin Miller building (image courtesy ARHA)

Last week, the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) gave its headquarters an official name — one honoring a local civil rights activist and affordable housing advocate.

The newly christened A Melvin Miller Building honors A. Melvin Miller. After serving two years in the army, Miller move to Alexandria in 1958. Miller launched a criminal law practice but worked pro bono on school desegregation issues. Miller served as spokesperson for The Secret Seven, a group of Black civil rights pioneers in Alexandria. Miller was chair of ARHA from 1970 to 1977 and from 2001 to 2012.

One of Miller’s greatest contributions to affordable housing, a release from ARHA said, was the negotiation of Resolution 830, which states that no public housing in Alexandria would be demolished unless there’s a one-for-one unit replacement.

“Resolution 830 is one of Melvin Miller’s crowning achievements,” ARHA Board Commissioner Merrick Malone said in the release. “It is the guiding principle that ARHA continues to follow and exceed when redeveloping the agency’s properties. His legacy informs the work of ARHA every single day, and so I’m extremely proud that his name now graces our headquarters.”

Over 35 years of public service, Miller worked in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and served as Assistant Deputy Secretary at HUD from 1997 until retiring in 2014.

“My family is extremely grateful that my father’s legacy will live on in this way,” Marc Miller, one of Melvin Miller’s two surviving children, said in the release. “If he and our mother Eula were here, I’m sure they’d echo that gratitude. This building naming not only honors our father’s life’s work but ensures that the principles for which he fought — including affordable housing for all residents — live on.”

The building includes a bust created by Tatyana Shramko, a sculpture artist with a studio at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

“I can think of no more appropriate name to grace this building than that of A. Melvin Miller,” said ARHA Chief Executive Officer Keith Pettigrew in the release. “Mr. Miller dedicated his life to helping those who struggle financially, and his efforts included working tirelessly to improve housing opportunities in the city he loved. His legacy is far-reaching and long-lasting. Now, with his name on our headquarters, we know that future generations of Alexandrians will learn of his work and his impact.”

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Samuel Madden redevelopment rendering (image via Torti Gallas + Partners/City of Alexandria)

It’s a second shot for the proposed Samuel Madden redevelopment after the plans’ first encounter with the Board of Architectural Review sparked some debate.

The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) project aims to tear down a dozen aging townhouses at 899 and 999 North Henry Street — 66 units in total — and replace them with two new multifamily apartment buildings featuring 500 residential units.

The proposed change would be a massive shift in scale for the pair of properties and be a marked visual change to the approach into Old Town along Route 1. The project faced some pushback from the Board of Architectural Review for demolishing homes identified as architecturally characteristic of the historic Parker-Gray neighborhood.

The staff report heading into a BAR meeting tonight (Tuesday), however, expresses more support for the project and said the applicant worked with staff to make changes to the properties.

As previously noted, staff finds that the applicant has been responsive to comments from the Board
and staff and has made significant changes to the proposed design throughout the Concept Design
review phase. These changes include the following:

  • Addition of shoulders on portions of the building facing the historic district;
  • The reconfiguration of the north building to extend the building further into the proposed
    park, relocating the public open space to the north end of the south building;
  • The creation of an exterior courtyard at the north end of the building;
  • Reorganizing the building organization to locate the entry lobbies across from one another
    to further the connection between the north and south buildings;
  • The addition of significant setbacks at the south end of the south building in response to
    adjacent buildings;
  • The elimination of a floor and overall lowering of the south building.

The report said the changes are the direct result of comments from the BAR.

“Staff appreciates the responsiveness of the applicant and the collaborative approach to the design the Board and the applicant have engaged,” the report said. “Based on all of these revisions, staff finds the height, mass, and scale to be appropriate for this location and the surrounding context.”

In general, the staff report said the new architectural shifts in the project will help it blend in more with the buildings around it, including those west of the property that are taller than the proposed development.

“Staff finds that the general architectural character of the proposed design is compatible with the Design Guidelines and the nearby context,” the report said. “Staff recommends that the Board endorse the proposed height, mass, scale, and general architectural character…”

The report also noted that the approval should be contingent on a few more minor changes, like slight elevation and window changes.

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Ladrey High Rise in Old Town North (image via Google Maps)

The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) has announced some next steps for plans to redevelop Ladrey High Rise, a public housing building in Old Town North.

The current building is an 11-story, 170-unit high rise building housing seniors and residents with disabilities. The redevelopment plans will see that building and an adjoining property demolished for a new mid-rise construction. The new development is slated to be a one-to-one replacement of the units on the site.

The building primarily houses seniors and residents with disabilities. ARHA said in the release the new development will increase the number of units on-site that are committed affordable units.

The building is currently fully occupied, with residents temporarily relocated during redevelopment. Earlier development plans noted that current residents will have a right to return — priority on new units given to current residents displaced during construction.

“This is the next big step in our plan for improving housing and the quality of life for all residents in our city,” said ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew. “When completed, the units in the Ladrey High Rise will rival other modern housing developments in Alexandria. We look forward to hitting the ground running so that we can get these longtime residents into their brand-new homes as soon as possible.”

New amenities in the redevelopment include underground parking, meeting exercise and service rooms, and a community plaza. Residents will also have access to rooftop amenity spaces. ARHA said the redevelopment was spurred on in part by a need to make the building more accessible to residents with disabilities.

Kenneth Burton, a 20-year resident of Ladrey who uses a power wheelchair, said the in the release that the current building is not designed for him to easily get around.

“We are the ones who are going to live here, who will utilize the building day in day out, so it’s good to have a voice in the process,” Burton said. “We have been told Ladrey would be renovated and upgraded many times before, but it hasn’t happened yet. But now this time, I believe it will.”

In a release, ARHA said it selected Winn Companies and developer IBF Development to help spearhead the redevelopment plans. The project still has to work through the city’s redevelopment process.

“Both firms have extensive experience developing quality affordable housing communities regionally and nationally,” ARHA said in the release. “The proposed development plan will replace all the current Ladrey units and increase the number of apartment homes available to working households.”

Photo via Google Maps

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In five years, Jason Ellis wants Momentum Collective, Inc. to be a charter school teaching kids the arts in Northern Virginia.

The nonprofit resumed programming in October, after a two-year Covid hiatus, and are one again teaching low and moderate income children how to sing, dance and act in summer camps and after school at the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Ruby Tucker Center. About 90 elementary school-aged kids have participated since programming resumed, and the plan is to eventually bring back middle and high school kids.

Ellis, who founded the nonprofit six years ago, is a former program and resident and community services director with ARHA. He’s a director, actor, singer, dancer and writer.

“I’m about empowerment,” Ellis told ALXnow. “We have empowered our kids with a sense of urgency so that they can be in control of their own lives and destiny and make good choices.”

Momentum Collective, Inc. partners with Alexandria City Public Schools’ Link Club program, the city and ARHA to work with kids after school and in the summer.

“There aren’t a lot of opportunities for kids, particularly Black and brown kids in under-resourced families, who don’t have the financial resources to participate in meaningful arts enrichment programming within the city,” Ellis said. “We created the organization specifically to target kids within the city of Alexandria to have access to arts enrichment programs for free.”

Ellis was also the head of school for the YouthBuild Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. from 2018 to 2019. It’s an experience that has shifted the focus of the organization.

“We have a five year plan to start a charter school for middle school youth,” Ellis said. “For now, though, our short-term plan is to expand our programming into other recreation centers, particularly like on the West End, because that’s always a underserved area of the city.”

Momentum Collective is conducting a creative writing workshop in September at Jefferson Houston Recreation Center. The workshop is open to Alexandria children, and cash awards will be presented to the winners.

“Then we’re actually going to stage their writing productions from our winners,” Ellis said.

Ellis and his team use technology to motivate their students.

“Kids are very interested in performing,” he said. “By nature they reach they want to showcase something, which is why they’re constantly on TikTok and Instagram. So,  if I say I’m going to be working on something that you can put on TikTok, they get it — that’s the end result for them and that’s what they want to work toward. If I give them a script and tell them we’re going to put a web series on YouTube, they get excited about that, because that’s what they’re familiar with.”

Via Facebook

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As local kids prepare to head back to school, Firefighters and Friends to the Rescue and ARHA is hosting their annual School Supply Giveaway this weekend.

The event is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe Street) on Sunday, Aug. 14.

The program, which is led by School Board Member Willie Bailey, will offer school supplies for kids in need as well as a free haircut.

“A free haircut and school supply giveaway event will be happening in the Alexandria area,” the group said in a flyer. “Please note that kids must be present to receive their backpacks and school supplies!”

Additional booths will be set up throughout the gym to offer a variety of other services to local families.

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Rendering of new proposed Samuel Madden development (image courtesy ARHA)

After a contentious Board of Architectural Review (BAR) meeting, plans for the redevelopment of Samuel Madden Homes in the Braddock neighborhood are headed back to public review at a meeting next week.

The City of Alexandria said in a release that a community meeting for the proposed redevelopment is scheduled for Tuesday, July 26, at 6 p.m. in the Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe Street).

The BAR recommended approval of a plan to demolish the buildings in a 4-1 vote, but during the discussion BAR members has stern comments about the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s (ARHA) history of neglect that necessitated the redevelopment.

BAR member John Sprinkle also lamented the demolition of the homes as eroding part of the Parker-Gray historical district.

The plan is currently to turn the buildings into a larger mixed-use development that will replace the current 66-units across 13 buildings with 500 residential units.

“Representatives from the development team will discuss the current iteration of the development concept and timeline, and invite general public comment on the project,” a release from the City of Alexandria said.

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ARHA headquarters (image via Google Maps)

The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) announced that later this year, the headquarters will be renamed in honor of activist and former ARHA Chairman A. Melvin Miller.

Miller, who died in 2015, was a civil rights activist and affordable housing advocate in Alexandria who, among his many positions in city and state leadership, served as chairman of ARHA from 1970 to 1977 and from 2001 to 2012.

“This is a deeply deserved honor for Melvin Miller,” ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew said in a press release. “Mr. Miller made it part of his life’s work to help those who were not as fortunate as he was, particularly when it came to housing.”

One of Miller’s accomplishments was pushing for city policy that required every affordable housing unit demolished to be replaced one-for-one.

Pettigrew thanked ARHA Commissioner and School Board member Willie Bailey and Living Legend John Porter their help in getting the building named after Miller.

“We felt this was an appropriate way to honor Melvin’s legacy in Alexandria,” Porter said. “Melvin was very involved in education and civil rights issues, but his main focus was on equity in housing. And we thought naming the administrative building for him would be an ideal way to remember his contribution, so we made that recommendation to ARHA. Then, the pandemic struck and slowed down the process.”

In addition to his work with ARHA and the Office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Miller served for seven years on the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia and on the Alexandria Board of Education.

“We felt this was an appropriate way to honor Melvin’s legacy in Alexandria,” Porter said. “Melvin was very involved in education and civil rights issues, but his main focus was on equity in housing. And we thought naming the administrative building for him would be an ideal way to remember his contribution, so we made that recommendation to ARHA. Then, the pandemic struck and slowed down the process.”

The ceremony to rename the building is currently scheduled for September.

Image via Google Maps

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A 37-year-old Maryland man is being held without bond after allegedly sexually assaulting a girl younger than 13 years old in the Braddock area.

The incident occurred at around 9 p.m. on May 9 near Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority properties in the 1300 block of Madison Street, which is close to the Braddock Road Metro station.

Police found the suspect, Damien Curtis Talbert, of Prince George’s County, unconscious but breathing as he was pinned to the ground by multiple witnesses.

The witnesses told police they stopped him from allegedly sexually assaulting the juvenile girl, and that a gun fell out of Talbert’s clothing during the incident, according to a search warrant affidavit. A Taurus G3C 9mm pistol was found on the ground about five feet from the suspect.

The juvenile victim did not seek medical attention, police said.

About 20 minutes before the incident, police were alerted of a fight between two men a short distance away at 1000 Colonial Avenue. Before the fight, one of the men involved admitted to handing his gun to Talbert.

Talbert was charged with possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, sexual battery of a victim under the age of 13 and assault and battery. He goes to court for the offenses on June 1.

The Alexandria Sexual Assault Center and Domestic Violence Program is available 24/7 to listen and help at 703-746-4911.

“If you are a neighbor and know that an abusive incident is occurring, call the police immediately,” the city said. “Calling the police is simply the most effective way to protect the victim and children from immediate harm.”

Via Google Maps

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