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Saving the Gates of Ballston

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AHC Milestones

Community Preserves 465 At-Risk Garden Apartments

In 2001, one of Arlington’s largest historic apartment communities, Gates of Ballston, went on the market. Real estate was booming and several commercial developers quickly bid on the property. With 465 garden apartments, the imminent loss of affordable housing would be a blow to the local community. Arlington’s older apartment communities were already under attack. During the previous two years, the County had lost 5,000 units of affordable housing.

Arlington County, AHC and a working group of concerned citizens quickly banded together to try to save the 17-acre property. Their efforts paid off. AHC, with the help of Arlington County, acquired the property in 2002.

Built between 1938 and 1941 as workforce housing for single men and small families, the Gates’ 43 buildings had never been renovated. AHC began a comprehensive revitalization of the property in 2005, carefully preserving the buildings’ historic attributes, including using authentic slate to replace the original roofs and adding new historically accurate windows. The renovation also included new kitchens, bathrooms, and heating/cooling systems. Seventy-two units were also converted into three-bedroom apartments to accommodate larger families. The historic renovation has been recognized by numerous organizations, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Today the property is full of families and lively community activities. In 2008, AHC celebrated the opening of a new, two-level, 10,000-square-foot community center. The center is a vibrant gathering space with numerous classrooms, meeting areas, and space for community partners, including Arlington County’s Community Outreach programs.

In 2015, the community center was renamed the Rinker Community Center at the Gates of Ballston to honor Charlie and Lora Rinker, long-time community activists who fought to preserve Arlington’s affordable housing, including Gates of Ballston years earlier.

Photo: AHC’s purchase of the Gates of Ballston preserved one of Arlington’s largest garden-style apartment communities. 

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Land Swap and Affordable Housing Bring Development to Life

AHC Milestones

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The Jordan Is Catalyst for Successful Mixed-Income, Mixed-Use Site

AHC’s first and only (so far) land swap was the catalyst for a successful five-acre mixed-income, mixed-use site in Arlington, VA. Thanks to an innovative land exchange between AHC Inc. and The JBG Companies, an aging apartment building and adjacent car dealership have been transformed into a vibrant corridor with 90 affordable apartments, 28 luxury town homes and two commercial buildings with 450,000 square feet of office and retail space.

The collaborative project began when AHC was redeveloping a timeworn apartment building next to a site The JBG Companies proposed to turn into large commercial buildings and townhouses. When density concerns and lack of community benefits stalled the project, Arlington County suggested JBG and AHC swap land parcels to ease the transition between the commercial buildings and the nearby residential neighborhood. Not only did the neighborhood appreciate and support the resulting step-down density, but they also embraced the affordable housing component as a desirable community benefit. Arlington County also enthusiastically supported the plan because it nearly quadrupled the amount of affordable housing on the site – from 24 to 90 units. Today, the four-story Jordan apartment building sits across the street from million dollar townhomes and next door to two stately glass and chrome Class A office buildings.

The Jordan adds significantly to the diversity of income levels in the Bluemont neighborhood, which includes mostly single-family homes with few traditional apartment buildings. Seven out of 10 Bluemont residents earn more than $100,000 annually. About a quarter have incomes above $200,000. In comparison, families living at The Jordan earn between $35,000 and $65,000 a year.

The Jordan also contributes to the long-term vitality of the community through an onsite pre-school program. Twenty-four children participate in the Montessori program held in The Jordan’s 1,200-square-foot community room and enjoy the property’s outdoor play area, courtyard and library. The program adds a unique twist to the mixed-income nature of the neighborhood – one-third of the students are residents of The Jordan and attend on scholarships; the rest of the youngsters live in the surrounding area.

The Jordan also adds to the community’s vibrancy through an inviting walkway that winds between the apartment building and one of the adjacent office buildings.  The ribbon-like greenway highlights the many contributions of one of Arlington’s most-loved leaders, Ellen Bozman. Ellen’s Trace could have been a narrow, nondescript and underutilized walkway sandwiched between an office building and an apartment building. Instead, the 25-foot wide by 230-foot-long space is a welcoming greenway with comfortable benches, splashes of colorful tilework and restful plantings. The spot adds a sense of cohesiveness to the block and brings together pedestrians, families, dog walkers and office workers who all enjoy the space.

A land swap that featured affordable housing was the glue that brought this mixed-income redevelopment to life. Today, hourly service workers live across the street from highly paid lawyers, send their children to school together, and sit side by side in the nearby park.

Photo: The Jordan, adjacent to office buildings and across the street from million dollar town homes, is the glue that helped bring the mixed-use, mixed-income redevelopment to life.  

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Investing in a Baltimore Neighborhood

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AHC Milestones

AHC Focuses $60 Million Investment in Baltimore’s Park Heights Neighborhood

In the last 15 years, AHC Inc. has invested nearly $60 million in Baltimore’s Park Heights neighborhood through four properties that provide more than 500 affordable homes for a variety of residents, including senior citizens, homebuyers, families and the disabled.

“AHC believes we can make a bigger impact in the community by focusing our investment in a specific area,” explains Andrew Vincent, AHC Greater Baltimore Director.  ”Providing more opportunities for quality affordable housing in a concentrated area can help tip the balance in a neighborhood and bring it to life.”

Located in the northwest corner of Baltimore City, Park Heights has been home for generations of West Baltimore families, local parks and churches. Over the years, the neighborhood has seen major disinvestment alongside small pockets of growth. The City of Baltimore has recently designated 49 acres of Park Heights as a Master Redevelopment Area, with the goal of redeveloping the area into a vibrant mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood.

AHC’s properties are concentrated on the southern part of Park Heights with Madeira, the most recent investment, on the edge of the Master Redevelopment Area. AHC purchased Madera in 2014 and recently completed extensive renovations, including new appliances, windows, central air conditioning and a new roof. The complex includes 47 apartments in four buildings. New landscaping is underway and families are moving into the bright, updated apartments.

AHC’s commitment to the neighborhood began with the purchase of Greenspring Overlook apartments in 2001. An extensive renovation of the 189-unit, aging garden apartment community was completed in 2002. Two thirds of the apartments serve families with two or three-bedroom apartments. Today a thriving program for residents provides education opportunities for children, financial and job training education for adults, and a variety of programs for senior citizens.

In 2008, AHC Greater Baltimore purchased and renovated MonteVerde – two 13-story buildings with 301 affordable apartments for seniors and non-elderly disabled residents. The $30 million development project transformed the run-down property and provided more community space, updated kitchens and baths, new windows and heating and cooling systems. A thriving program for residents helps build residents’ physical and mental health and improves individuals’ ability to age in place.

When AHC purchased MonteVerde, the road leading up to the apartment community, Violet Avenue, was full of abandoned, crumbling row houses. AHC decided to build on its commitment to the area and tackle the blighted block with a homeownership project called MonteVerde Rowe. The  investment focuses on a one-block area to maximize the impact. To date, AHC has purchased 2/3 of the block. Most of the houses have been completely renovated, with more in the works. The project has been slow going, but AHC is committed to investing the time and effort to make a difference. The dedication is beginning to pay off. So far, four first-time home buyers, including a nurse and a postal worker, have purchased homes and are putting down roots in the community.

Photo: MonteVerde Rowe is coming back to life with 2/3 of the block renovated. (Photo by Anice Hoachlander)

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Affordable Housing for Senior Citizens

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AHC Milestones

AHC’s first community for senior citizens opened in 2005.

The aging of America presents an increasing housing challenge. In the last 10 years, AHC has developed several affordable apartment communities to help older individuals maintain their independence and age in place. All provide programs and staff designed specifically to keep senior citizens active and engaged.

When it was built, Hunter’s Park was the first new construction of affordable housing in Arlington in eight years. The property provides 74 one-bedroom apartments and numerous welcoming common areas, including a living room with fireplace, library and rooftop patio. Activities abound, including exercise classes, book club, gardening workshops and special birthday celebrations. Scholarship programs for adult education opportunities are also available. The property is named for the late James B. Hunter III, a longtime supporter of affordable housing, who served as AHC’s first Board president in 1976 and also on the Arlington County Board for many years.

In 2008, AHC purchased and renovated MonteVerde Apartments in Baltimore, MD, which serves more than 300 senior citizens and physically disabled individuals. Today, AHC’s Resident Services staff help connect residents with the local services they need to live independently and improve their quality of life. The property provides a shuttle service to local retailers, a library, arts and crafts room and game room lounges, nutrition and wellness programs.

Charter House, in Silver Spring, MD, with 212 apartments for individuals aged 55 and older, became an AHC property in 2013. Located near the Silver Spring Metro station, the 14-story building is within walking distance of numerous shops and activities. AHC is creating a vibrant activities program with such partners as the Fenwick Foundation, which provides a wide variety of field trips for senior citizens. Residents are also encouraged to create additional on-site activities, which encourages more interaction and camaraderie.

Photo: Birthday celebrations are just one of the monthly activities that Hunter’s Park residents enjoy. (Photo by Brian Stanton)