City Desk

Neighborhood Watch: Ward 8 Property, Fire Sale or Golden Opportunity?

HousingThe Issue: Is Ward 8 taking on more than its fair share of social housing? So Others Might Eat (SOME), a D.C. nonprofit group, bought a rundown residential property about a year ago on Mellon Street in southeast with the intention of turning the space into long-term housing for adults with special needs. The complex will offer on-site support for residents who have proven six-month recovery in issues ranging from substance abuse to credit problems. But the neighbors fear Ward 8 has become a nonprofit “dumping ground,” and think the new residents will contribute to the area’s problems. The twist is a 3.4 billion dollar Homeland Security Campus slated to open across the street in 2013. Could the property be put to better use?

Fire Sale: SOME says they have opened same-model housing in wards all over the city, including Logan Circle and Capitol Hill, and in the past the housing has raised property values. Richard Gerlach, Executive Director of SOME, told City Desk, “That property was on the market for a long, long time, so to say it’s a golden opportunity is just not true. The buildings we take over are a blight…we fix them up and they become a positive influence that promote growth.”  He also stressed that the housing is independent and non-transitional.

Missed Opportunity: Some Ward 8 residents argue that the space should be used to encourage higher income residents to move to the neighborhood: Resident Brian Townes told City Desk, “The area is prime redevelopment for the [Department of Homeland Security] alone... how many of these types of housing developments are within a three-mile radius of the Pentagon?” Congress Heights on Rise also says the community wasn’t notified about the project by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC), despite the neighborhood becoming, in his her opinion, “the designated social services arm of the entire district.”

Next Step: Construction is slated to begin in October, although Gerlach says the housing’s opening date has not yet been determined due to the economic climate. Disgruntled residents still have time to voice complaints to their local ANC.

Photo by Lydia, Creative Commons Attribution License

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  • The Advoc8te

    Thank you for posting this.

    To Mr. Gerlach's comment that the property has been vacant for a long time. It may be vacant but part of the reason it is vacant and in disrepair is because of the perception that the area is a "throw away" neighborhood and that new residents wouldn't want to move to a neighborhood with patients/clients from St.E's roaming the neighborhood. It will not correct the misconception that Ward 8 is purely for the poor and disadvantaged and not a realistic option for everyone else.

    Just because this property is currently vacant doesn't mean that it is always going to be vacant and being located directly across the street from the 14,000 DHS jobs that will be relocated to St. E'sit it is guranteed that that building can and will be developed into some type of quality residential real estate. Employees are going to want to move into the neighorhood to be close to their job and they are going to want a high quality real estate option on a great street in a great neighborhood. It is a golden opportunity to effect some real change and economic diversity in the community which has far too long been the throw away of the district.

    If this "independent" housing is so great for the community why hasen't SOME presented their plans to the community? If it wasn't for sharp eyed bloggers we would have had no idea this was happening until contruction started.

    Let me be clear. Call it "indpendent" housing or "group home" WE DON'T WANT IT! My own opinion is if that property has to sit empty for another year or two until the DHS move is well on it's way or the economy rebounds I am all for it. We in the community are far more intrigued about the quality of the project than just sticking anything there. That type of "stick anything there" mentality has gotten us in this situation in the first place.

    Pardon me but we don't want or need scraps.

    We want the same quality options as the rest of the city.

  • The Advoc8te

    FYI - The Advoc8te, writer of Congress Heights on the Rise is a "She" not a "he" :) But that is okay. lol

  • The Debutante

    Thank you for posting this article. Ward 8 has MORE THAN ENOUGH of these types of facilities and does not want any more. I would rather the property sit vacant or become a park than become some type of rehab facility. Feel free to check out my blog post at South East Socilalite and see what other residents had to say about it. We are SICK of this. SICK...

  • The Advoc8te

    And by the way everyone knows that ANC 8C is THE WORST ANC in all of Ward 8. It is common knowledge you can slip stuff past them because they are so disfunctional. If SOME sent notification to ANC 8C (most likely Mary Cuthbert) then it wasn't forwarded to us in the community. We haven't heard Word 1 about this until Barry Farm (re)Mixed and The Debutante of Southeast Socialite started writing about this.

    I am so mad! We are constantly being screwed!

    It's bad enough that our ANC is either wasting or stealing ANC funds (to the tune of 100k) but to totally drop the ball on this type of stuff is criminal!

    Congress Heights residents are asking questions and getting involved and we are not going to stand for this type of incompetence (even from our elected officials) anymore.


  • NAB

    I dunno, you're saying you'd prefer condos, coffee shops and for-profit retail? That sounds a lot like the "G"-word to me and will likely be condemned as such by others in your neighborhood. Not sayin' I don't sympathize, but, ya know, there's that.

  • call it like i see it


    Get over it people. SOME does good work and purchased the building fair and square. You had the chance for a while and never did it. Don't start crying now. This is what we like to call Free Market Capitalism. Welcome to the U.S. of A.

  • The Advoc8te

    I am not going to let that "G" word scare me make me back down. The problem is that there is no oversight on this type of stuff and no plan. I LIVE HERE. I ALONG WITH ALL OF MY NEIGHBORS DEAL WITH THIS ON A DAILY BASIS. We love our community and we have PRIDE in our community and we want make sure there is a balance and right now there is NOT a balance. This is not some social experiement or an excerise in "good Christian values" this is REAL life.

    Experience has taught us that these places open up and there is no support for the community to maintain them and to ensure that it is not disruptive to the community. There is aleady an apartment complex next door to this property that is being used as a group home. Why would we need two on the same block?

    I have a better idea.Why not relocate this property to your block? Our argument is not that they all should go but that we have to pick up the slack for the entire Ward. It's unbalanced and it's unfair and in this case there was ZERO notice to the community. Of course we are upset!

    BTW it's not just no residents who have a major problem with this. old residents who have been trying to hard to keep their street clean, safe and RESIDENTIAL don't want to see this either.

  • The Advoc8te

    correction: pick up the slack for the entire CITY - not Ward. :)

  • The Advoc8te

    Ummm...I see the fix. Richard is a MAN. Congress Heights on the Rise is a WOMAN. lol

  • Dana Liebelson

    Ha, all I get for editing too quickly is gender changes. Hmm...

  • The Advoc8te

    You are super talented! :)

  • Skipper

    I like the irony above about SOME - which receives a large amount of taxpayer funding - having bought the buildings as an example of free market capitalism.

  • Urban_Architect

    Just for the record....the property sat vacant after the previous owner sold it illegally--then there was the lawsuit by the previous tenants (who won). What happened in between the verdict middle of 2007 and when Affordable Housing/SOME bought it in 2008 is unknown, but it wasn't like SOME went around the neighborhood jumping up and down, sharing what their plans were. The neighborhood has known about Sheridan Terrace and DHS for sometime now and barely any ground has been broken...and yet the community has no clue what is happening at Mellon St? I think that's kind of unfair. Any unfortunately, very typical for this particular property and for this part of the city.

  • The Advoc8te

    @Urban.Just read your post. THANK YOU for such a great and informative narrative. You are so spot on and THANK YOU for bringing this to our attention in the first place. It is clear as a glass that there was not a real attempt to inform the community of what was going on. There could have been so many ways to get the community involved in this. A sign in front of the building prior to purchase would have gone a long way.

    Residents are no longer satisfied with sitting idly by why are communities are stripped for parts. We deserve better and we are going to get it!

  • BillyBobBush

    Why don't you all go and take a look at the residential real estate market in Ward 8 right now. Take a look at what's selling and at what price. Unlike the rest of the City, for-profit developers do not want to be in SE, period. If this property was located in NW, NE, or SW, it would have been "given" to Donatelli or someone to do what you idiots are here arguing in favor of. But no one wants to build there and the groups that step in to do get bashed for it. Go screw yourselves your ungrateful wretches. Do you think anyone who will work at this new government facility will be tempted to live in SE because there is granite countertops and stainless steel. Get real. If you deserve better, then dammit, do it yourself.

  • The Advoc8te

    @BillBobBush. And where exactly do YOU live because you clearly don't live here because you don't have the slightest idea what you are talking about.

    For profit developers don't want to be in SE,period? Wow - talk about uninformed. Take a peak at all the real estate options here - many have been developed in the past 3 years.

    Let me school you for a sec on what is going on in Congress Heights. I'm not even going to mention DHS moving to the St E's campus.

    We have a new $27 million dollar arts and recreation campus - THEARC

    We have the new Shops at Park Village (formerly Camp Springs) which includes our first sit down restaurant as well as a NEW Giant Foods

    New residential development (and this is just a few)

    Asheford Court - Very large single family homes. Prices starting at $450k - $600k

    Grandview Estates - Modern townhome. Many with private balconnies. Starting at $350k

    Savoy Court Condominiums - 1 bedrooms starting at 165k and 2 bedrooms starting around 215k

    There are many more examples of the development that is occuring right over here right in Southeast so contrary to your opinion people do want to live here and are moving here in DROVES. People such as myself who saw what was available in SE saw that it wasn't the gun battle in the daytime ghetto that the news potrayed it to be and I LOVE IT. If you get all your facts about SE from the evening news instead of paying a visit to the area - which by the way we call RIVER EAST then you may learn something.

    BTW in 2007 Congress Heights was the fasted growing zipcode out of all of DC.

  • The Advoc8te

    Also please take a moment and actaully do some research on this area. Take a sec and google "River East DC" learn what you have been missing.

  • BillyBobBush

    Assclown Adco8te, you can list all of the inventory in SE, but send me the sales records instead and the prices they sold for and how long it took to sell. Any developer interested in turning a profit is not going into SE, period. Now a group that wants to do something positive and that a proven track record, not every wannabe small time rehabber, has to take trash from hypocritical idiots like you. Get real. Better yet, why don't you go ask Fenty or Donatelli, Akridge, Bernstein, EYA, Jair Lynch, or whomever else to come out and support you pointless claims. Why don't you go and protest the Good Samaritan Foundation, Art Monk and Charles Mann, who screwed over the residents of SE, by flipping a blighted property for an insane profit. Rather, you choose to attack SOME for reasons that are simply baffling. I enjoy my view of the Potomac from my Georgetown Penthouse Condo and don't need to commute to SE to see stupidity at work, you've already shown it to me...

  • The Advoc8te

    Wait a minute. I knew the screen name looked familiar. Aren't you the guy who has been spam blogging all the Ward 8 blogs calling us "African Yard Apes"? That IS you! Why am I even wasting me time trying to speak to you as if you had any sense?

    My bad.

  • BillyBobBush

    Oh right, so you can't actually address my points so you try to dismiss me by claiming I'm some other blogger. Good one. Grow a pair and then try to challenge. I happen to black as well, but I'm not the one using the race card here. You are. I just live in a better part of the City and am a bit of a snob when it comes to hypocrites and idiots. You know here I know I'm right, it's because of that same google suggestion you gave me, try it yourself and see if how many properties are selling in SE and at what price (close price, not list price). Sucker.

  • The Advoc8te

    Ahhh...Perhaps God will give me some extra points for trying to inform the misguided.

    Here's an article - albiet from 2007 before the crash but still on point. BTW I will make sure to tell the huge group of folks (myself included) that these mortages that we are paying are all a mariage because according to you who would spend large amounts of money for housing in SE? LOL. Right after that I will tell all my neighbors that they don't exist lol.


    Follow-Up: Why Congress Heights?
    Share | Print
    By Mary Clare Fleury Published Wednesday, April 04, 2007

    When we looked last week at the five hottest DC neighborhoods, I was surprised to see Congress Heights top the list. In 2006, 287 homes sold in this once-neglected East of the Anacostia River neighborhood at a median price of $245,000, a jump of 127 percent from $108,000 in 2003. In addition, Congress Heights prices climbed almost 30 percentage points higher than any other DC neighborhood.

    With all the new construction and development in the city, why are Congress Heights prices going up so fast? It doesn’t hurt that prices there were low to begin with, but that doesn’t answer the whole question. Other neighborhoods with similarly low median prices did not see as much growth.

    According to a Washington DC Economic Partnership report Congress Heights is “poised for new development” and already has several projects in the pipeline. The Shops at Park Village, a $21-million mixed-use development that will include 75 single-family homes and a new Giant grocery store, will open this summer on the former site of Camp Simms, a military base. Residential and commercial plans are also in the works at the Congress Heights Metro stop and at Saint Elizabeths Hospital.

    Contributing to the Congress Heights boom are two huge projects that bookend the neighborhood—the recently completed, $27-million Town Hall Education, Arts & Recreation Campus, known as the ARC, to the south and the new Nationals baseball stadium across the Anacostia River to the north.

  • BillyBobBush

    You're quoting an article written two years ago. What the fuck guy. You tard ass. Any place that you could have picked up a property for under $300k in DC at that time would have seemed appealing. Fast forward a year, the subprime meltdown, financial crash, bank failures, and tell me, which developer in his right mind would come anywhere close to this area. Get real you idiot. Get me some real facts and maybe God will forgive you for being so stupid.

  • nate

    I think BillyBob and Advoc8te have some valid points. I am a landlord in Congress Heights but I live in NW. So I see both sides of the argument. I hope it gentrifies. But it is a crappy part of town. For every one person like the Advoc8te, there are dozens more than contribute to bring the area down. I am a black man. Mid 30's. I have just come to the conclusion that it is impossible to have a fully functioning civil community of black people. There is just too much dysfunction in the black family. Not to mention, people just don't seem to give a damn. Sometime I will ride the W bus or the A bus up MLK and will be amazed to see the amount of trash right in front of an empty trashcan. No serious amount of development can occur with that level of disregard for common decency.