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.