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Why Andrew Adkins isn't moving forward

Posted on Aug 03,2018
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The 90 homes that make up Andrew Adkins date back to 1969 (Photo Credit: Alexa Epitropoulos)

By Alexa Epitropoulos

ALEXANDRIA, VA. - The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority announced late Friday afternoon that the planned redevelopment of Andrew Adkins, a group of 90 homes built in 1969 located near the Braddock Road Metro, is off the table.

ARHA owns and manages Andrew Adkins and had planned to partner with Alexandria Opportunity Housing LLC – a subsidiary of Clark Realty, or CRC Partners LLC – to redevelop it into a 476-unit community. ARHA now says that plan is no longer financially feasible.

ARHA and CRC’s partnership to redevelop Adkins – one of ARHA’s most valuable properties – has been plagued with challenges. The lack of progress provoked anger from members of council and planning commission last year.

“That process dragged out for awhile,” Vice Mayor Justin Wilson, a member of the ARHA work group, said. “It was difficult to get everyone to an agreement. ARHA needed to finalize its financial deal with CRC, the private developer, and, ultimately, they could never get there.”

The news release from ARHA lacked details and ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew did not respond to requests for comment by press time. In his statement, Pettigrew named rising construction costs and CRC’s requested concessions as factors in the deal’s failure.

“Despite our best efforts, after exhaustive negotiations with our development partner over a nearly two-year period, ARHA has determined that it is not possible for this project to move forward with the proposed financial structure,” Pettigrew said in a statement.

“Rising construction costs were certainly a contributing factor. … ARHA continuously demonstrated its dedicat[ion] to the project throughout the negotiation period, but the modification to certain financial aspects of the deal and other concessions requested by the development partner were not in the best interest of ARHA or the community it serves.”

ARHA Board Chairman Daniel Bauman said the project, as it was planned, was a victim of changing economics.

“We were hopeful that we could get to a place that we needed to be from a variety of aspects, from being able to service our residents to the economic outcome – because the economic outcome is what perpetuates our sustainability. Our goal is to build on a model that’s sustainable,” Bauman said. “… The economics under which we were contemplating moving forward were somewhat different than anticipated.”

Bauman said, despite this setback, ARHA is taking the long view toward redevelopment of the Andrew Adkins community.

“When I look at it, I recognize that there are variables outside of anyone’s control, that contribute to the value, or the potential fluctuations and, in the end, the fluctuations were bigger than what we were willing to accept,” Bauman said. “Our land is our most valuable asset. Time is less of a factor for us. We can afford to wait, because we know markets will shift. There are things we can do in the interim to boost our potential.”

Recent efforts to redevelop Andrew Adkins date back more than a decade to the Braddock Metro Neighborhood Plan, which the city approved in 2008. One of the goals of the plan was to promote mixed-income housing and follow an “inclusive process to de-concentrate public housing.”

ARHA named private partners for five of the projects it planned to tackle – Ramsey Homes, Andrew Adkins, Samuel Madden, Hopkins Tancil, ARHA headquarters and Cameron Valley – in 2016. While demolition started on Ramsey Homes in June, Andrew Adkins continued to languish.

The importance of Andrew Adkins is apparent to ARHA and city leaders, including Wilson and Councilor John Chapman, another member of the ARHA work group.

“I think many would argue that it’s our most valuable site because A) it’s a large site and B) it’s literally half a block from the Metro,” Bauman said. “In this case, it was the first one we selected to move forward under the RFP process. There are a variety of reasons as to why it is important, but I would emphasize that we view it as our most valuable real estate asset – that is the most important variable.”

Chapman said he and other city leaders are working to give ARHA the support it needs to reboot the redevelopment of Andrew Adkins.

“I think everybody is disappointed it’s not moving forward. I think we are willing to work with ARHA as they move through what is frankly a very complicated process,” Chapman said. “…I think we’ve started to build a better partnership with ARHA through this process because they’re trying to transform so many sites. … This is going to be several decades and it’s going to be a challenge. We want to work with them, to support them in what’s going to be quite an endeavor.”

Wilson said, while the outcome is disappointing, a lost deal is better than forging ahead with one that’s unsuitable.

“It’s frustrating. I think it was always going to be a tough negotiation, but to be perfectly honest, I’m glad ARHA didn’t just settle,” Wilson said. “They’re making sure they get the maximum amount for their land, which is something they can only sell once.”

Wilson said he wants to see the process continue to move forward, though Adkins no longer has a private sector partner for now.

“What I proposed, and I’ve said this to ARHA privately and our staff privately, is that I don’t want to stop – I want to proceed with [the] land use process, so that, even though we don’t have [a] private development partner at the table right now, we’ll keep the zoning and master plan amendments that we had talked about so that, essentially, when ARHA chooses [a] new development partner, they come in knowing what our expectations are,” Wilson said.

ARHA said in the release that it “remains committed” to the redevelopment of Andrew Adkins. The organization said it would conduct an updated evaluation of its real estate portfolio over a several-month period to determine what projects it should prioritize.

“… We want to proceed in the smartest way possible. We remain committed to redeveloping our properties for the long term and for the benefit of all residents of Alexandria,” Pettigrew said in a statement.

Bauman said the ideal outcome is close to what was envisioned in ARHA’s plan with CRC. The goal is to increase the density to an amount that’s supported by the neighborhood and to provide as many homes as possible for residents.

“It’s really simple for us. It’s an economic and a housing issue. We need to be able to provide housing for existing residents,” Bauman said. “… In the end, with that being the most desirable and valuable site, we have to value the highest economic gain for the future of our residents, really, because it’s the ability to provide affordable housing that’s our mission.

“We don’t want to lose the momentum,” Bauman continued. “We want to make sure we retain some of the momentum we’ve gotten over the last two years, working with CRC and the city. At this time, we’re exploring ways to do that. We don’t view this as the end – we view this as a start.”

Source Alextimes



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