A project that could transform the Brentwood neighborhood is up for zoning approval tonight after being scaled back significantly. But current residents of the Brookland Manor complex, fearing displacement, are opposing the plans, setting up a fight for the Zoning Commission to resolve.
The Mid-City Financial Corporation, based in Germantown, owns Brookland Manor, a low-rise apartment complex with 525 units spread over nearly 20 acres just off Rhode Island Avenue NE. The apartments, 373 of which are subsidized by the federal government through the project-based Section 8 program, date back to the Great Depression. They're not in good shape. The complex has become a crime hotspot. And with development and dollars spreading eastward along Rhode Island Avenue to nearby Brookland, Mid-City has an opportunity to turn an aging property into a lucrative opportunity.
As Mid-City frames it, though, the project is a legacy-building one for the company's 85-year-old founder, Eugene Ford Sr., who started the firm in 1965. Rather than scrapping its Section 8 contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and building entirely market-rate units, Mid-City has chosen to keep 373 of the new apartments under Section 8, while adding 1,273 market units by building higher and denser.
"You know the Museum Square story," says Mid-City Executive Vice President Michael Meers, referring to the embattled Mount Vernon Triangle building whose owner has sought to demolish it and displace the Section 8 tenants in order to build luxury apartments and condos. "We’ve taken the position that it needs to be safeguarded."
When Mid-City pitched its plans last fall, some residents were cautiously supportive. "I believe that’s a good idea," Minnie Elliott, president of the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association, told me then, referring to an overhaul of the complex. Her only fear, she said, was that "we don’t want them to displace the people that live here." And if Mid-City's commitment to minimizing displacement waned, she said, "we’re going to make noise."
Now they're making some noise. The tenant association will speak in opposition to Mid-City's plans tonight before the Zoning Commission, which will rule on Mid-City's application for a zoning change to allow for the increased density on the site.
Read more Scaled-Back Brentwood Overhaul Draws McDuffie’s Support, Tenants’ Opposition