Thursday, January 13, 2011

What's up with The Wilson Courts Apartments on Mellon St SE?

You may recall last year the community firestorm that took place when it was discovered by blog, Barry Farm reMixed,  that So Other Might East (SOME) had plans to open some type of group home/residential facility/transitional housing at the old Wilson Court apartments. Neighbors and  ANC 8C Commissioners were up in arms about SOME's plans to open yet another residential facility in a neighborhood already satured with social services housing and group homes. Case in point, the new SOME project would be directly next door to a Covenant House shelter and with a few hundred feet of several group homes. The Saint E's homeless shelter is just up the street and Mellon Street already sees a fair amount of foot traffic and loitering from the shelter residents during the day when they are turned out of the shelter.

SOME's property (as the community understood it's intended use) would be in direct violation of Title 11 which prohibits community residential facilities (which includes group homes, residential facilities, shelters, etc.) within 500 feet of each other.  The recent discovery of the Title 11 rule has been a boon for Ward 8 neighborhoods trying to stop the tide of group homes and shelters flooding their residential blocks. Residents in the immediate area of 1300 Congress Street SE in Congress Heights  have so far been victorious in thwarting plans to bring another group home to their block , a block which already has 4 other residential facilities within 500 feet. 

The final sticking point for opponents of the SOME project is the feeling that they were not informed or consulted by SOME before the property was purchased. According to the ANC 8C commission they were unaware of SOME's plans to purchase the property or their plans for it's use. SOME has maintained that their plans for the property don't include opening a "group home" but housing for special needs adults and recovering addicts. So far there has been no comment from SOME regarding the Title 11 issue.

So where does the project stand now? It's unclear.  In January 2010 , Councilmember Barry submitted a bill to offer tax abatement's for the company owning the property , Affordable Housing Opportunities Inc.,  including waiving some back taxes. According to a January 5, 2010 DCmud article:

"A bill submitted by Councilmember Marion Barry also provides indefinite tax abatement on two properties owned by Affordable Housing Opportunities Inc. (AHO), and even paying back taxes already received from FY 2008. The exempted are the former Wilson Court Apartments at 523-525 Mellon Street SE, purchased in 2008 for $1.5 million, and 2765 Naylor Road in SE, which the developer purchased in July 2008 for $2.8 million. Nelson Architects designed the renovations for both buildings. Plans for the former property include 36 single room units and 15 efficiencies, including two for on-site staff. The units will be made available to special needs single adults all with initial incomes at or below 30 to 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI). Neighbors have objected strongly to the proposed use, but Troy Swan of SOME indicated the project plans may change since the Mellon Street project did not receive any Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). "
It's unclear what happened with the bill and if the abatement's were approved but to date it doesn't appear any construction activity has taken place at the Wilson Street apartments.

Does anyone know about plans for Wilson Court?
Has it changed hands?

BTW -- Still not a single public trash can on Mellon Street SE.

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