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A company being sued by Northeast tenants for alleged discrimination submitted second-stage plans for a controversial project at Brookland Manor.
MidCity Financial Corp.’s filing, first reported by the Washington Business Journal, was sent to the D.C. Zoning Commission last Thursday, roughly one month after residents of the 535-unit apartment complex filed a lawsuit against the firm. The tenants and their advocates contend that MidCity’s plans for redeveloping the subsidized housing site into a mixed-use project that lacks four- and five-bedroom units infringes upon their “familial status.” New designs for 2.6 acres of the project, dubbed RIA Block 7, show a 170,000 square foot, four-story apartment building with more than 130 units (from studios to 3 bedrooms) and a slightly larger, four-story residence with approximately 200 affordable units set aside for single seniors. In its filing, MidCity notes that this is “the first of at least four” applications following zoning officials’ 2015 approval of the framework for the full 20-acre project.
The firm says the existing Ward 5 buildings are old, low-quality, and have an antiquated urban design that lacks defined green space (which it says encourages crime and loitering), necessitating the demolition of the complex.
The application even goes on to say that Brookland Manor’s “intense concentration of low-income residents with only a small number of market-rate tenants amongst the existing residential units” could be contributing to “cycles of poverty.” “Other projects that have deconcentrated low-income housing in the District and elsewhere have been celebrated successes for interrupting the self-reinforcing nature of poverty and crime,” MidCity says.
It’s unclear how the development will advance with the suit overhanging it. Maureen Browne, an attorney for Covington & Burling who is representing the tenants, declined to comment Tuesday, saying their legal team has “not yet had the opportunity to review any of [MidCity’s] latest submissions.” Still, MidCity Executive Vice President Michael Meers told the Business Journal that his firm is “trying to put together a socially responsible development.”
The company’s filing includes a tenant relocation plan that says 438 Brookland Manor units were occupied as of Sept. 9, with 98 percent of existing households receiving housing assistance. “Block 7 is expected to be vacant in late 2017 prior to the commencement of construction,” it points out. “To date, the overwhelming majority of Block 7 residents have already been relocated to appropriate and comparable apartments on-site with moving and relocation costs covered by [MidCity].” Phase 1 of the Brookland Manor project should be complete by the third quarter of 2019, the firm adds.
MidCity came under the microscope in a recent Washington Post investigation that determined the company sued to evict tenants on more than 370 occasions between January 2014 and March 2016. While most of the lawsuits did not lead to evictions, many involved miniscule amounts of late rent.
Additional renderings and layout plans for the project follow below. MidCity’s statement of support for its most recent plans can be accessed here.
VIA D.C. ZONING COMMISSION