This Monday I presented the following information concerning Key Blvd Apt redevelopment to the Housing Committee of the Arlington County Civic Federation:
Key Blvd Apartments
NRCA was not happy with the AHC proposal to redevelop the Key Blvd Apartments. In the first analysis NRCA indicated high concern about the following:
1. Excessive number of units and building height.
2. Insufficient setbacks.
3. Excessive traffic owing to number of cars and parking garage entrance on 19th St.
After the proposal was modified, a more targeted list of concerns were produced:
1. Zoned county parking stickers should not be made available for tenants as it will place unacceptable burdens on local parking.
2. The building’s fortress-like doughnut shape encloses area that would otherwise be visually accessible to the community and creates unnecessarily small building set backs from the lot line.
3. The space and amenities for children both on site and off site are of major concern to the community.
Here’s my take on the Key Blvd Apartment (KBA) situation
The Key Blvd Apartments
Ahout 25 years ago AHC received, free, 41 fully remodeled / fully renovated living units to be devoted to affordable housing. This donation of affordable housing was made as a ‘community benefit’ in exchange for upzoning the nearby site where the Atrium would be built. AHC now states that the KBA units have deteriorated so greatly that they must be redeveloped immediately. On the face of it, AHC has been a terrible steward of a community resource. What has AHC been doing with the rents and subsidies that they’ve collected?
The AHC Proposal
AHC has shopped around several proposals for the KBA site. Their latest would divide the property into two portions. About one-half of the property would be privatized by building and selling condos. The other half would be retained for affordable housing.
On the upside, the number of affordable units would double to about 80 units.
On the downside, this privatizes one-half of a property dedicated to affordable housing. Building density and height on the entire property would be greatly increased. And existing greenspace would be reduced in a neighborhood which is already deficient in recreational space for children and young adults. The AHC proposal, by eliminating an existing on-site tot-lot, would reduce the already inadequate neighborhood playspace.
Key Blvd Apartments were built to last, and would last if they were maintained.
There are many similar developments to KBA located in Arlington built around the same time and with similar technique. They’re solid and functional. Full-brick on block, big heavy-duty boilers, etc. A nearby condo for example has maintenance fees in the $300 range. One continues to ask, why couldn't AHC maintain KBA when they were receiving substantial rent and subsidy payments?
Perhaps the KBA property could generate enough rent to pay for its own renovation
Even with a bunch of problems caused, apparently by neglect, the KBA property might be able to generate enough in affordable rentals and subsidies to pay for renovation. I’d like an independent review of what it would it would take to fix the place. Truly I would not trust an AHC analysis of renovation costs. That would be as believable as a BP analysis of responsibility and damages from their recent massive spill.
Future safeguards against mismanagement
No more, “trust me.” I think that the County Board would be derelict if it did not require a reviewable enforceable business plan for any new affordable housing project at the KBA site.