An innovative approach to creating affordable housing is bringing 93 new affordable apartments to Alexandria. Now under construction, St. James Plaza expects to welcome residents in late 2018. Working together, the City of Alexandria and nonprofit developer AHC Inc., are successfully transforming three acres previously owned by St. James Methodist Church into a vibrant, mixed-use, mixed-income community with adjoining public green space. The project fulfills the church’s aim to further its social justice mission and helps the City offset the loss of market affordable apartments that will occur when the nearby Beauregard neighborhood redevelops.
AHC got an option to acquire the land in 2013, rezoned it to residential use in 2014, acquired the property and subdivided it and is currently under contract to sell approximately 1.5 acres to Craftmark, a market-rate developer, to create 31 new townhomes that will be adjacent to AHC’s planned multifamily development. AHC will use the townhome land sale to subsidize the cost of the land for the affordable apartment building. The City of Alexandria approved funding for the project in 2014, along with a $5.7 million development loan to partially fund construction of the affordable building.
Leveraging the land assets of faith communities, as occurred with the St. James Plaza development, is a creative response to the challenge of finding developable land in the Washington, D.C. region. “The limited supply of undeveloped land in the Washington DC region, coupled with the high cost of available land, is among the most significant obstacles to developing affordable housing,” explains Walter D. Webdale, AHC Inc. President and CEO. “Working as a team with community groups, local governments and/or market-rate developers to create land for housing is a successful strategy that benefits the whole community.” In recent years, AHC has created developable land in a number of ways, from combining single-family lots to acquiring a gas station adjacent to AHC-owned land.
“As housing affordability is harder to find in our region, the City of Alexandria is glad to make investments that help residents secure quality, affordable apartments,” said Mayor Allison Silberberg. “Partnering with nonprofits, like AHC Inc., reflects our commitment to remaining inclusive and diverse, while creating successfully mixed-income communities as outlined in both the 2012 Beauregard Plan and the 2013 Housing Master Plan.”
St. James Plaza will include a mix of efficiencies, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartment homes for households with incomes ranging from $43,680 to $65,520 for a family of four. Amenities will include underground parking and a community space. Plans are underway to partner with the Campagna Center to operate a daycare and pre- kindergarten program on site that will serve residents’ children as well as children from the neighborhood.
In addition to the City of Alexandria, St. James project partners include Capital One Bank, Hudson Housing Capital, and NeighborWorks Capital. Designed by Cunningham-Quill Architects, the five-story building is being constructed by Harkins Builders.
Photo caption: St. James Plaza will provide 93 new affordable apartments in Alexandria, VA.
Founded in 1975, AHC Inc. is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the mid-Atlantic region that provides quality homes and education programs for low- and moderate-income families. Based in Arlington, VA, AHC has developed more than 7,000 apartment units in 52 properties in Virginia and Maryland. AHC’s Resident Services program reaches 2,000 children, teens, adults and seniors each year through onsite education programs and activities.