The new Monseñor Romero Apartments

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After a fire ripped through her Mount Pleasant apartment building in 2008, leaving some 200 residents homeless, Yasmin Romero-Latin was confident she’d be returning before long. “Former Mayor [Adrian] Fenty, he promised to us that we come back to the building,” she says.

But six years later, as the returning residents of the former Deauville building on Mount Pleasant Street NW celebrate its reopening today as the Monseñor Romero Apartments, she can’t help but get emotional. “We are really really happy,” she says, “and really blessed.”

Romero-Latin is the president of the building’s tenant association, which fought hard to make sure former residents would be able to return. Yesterday, the first 15 families moved back into the building, Romero-Latin says. Of the building’s 63 affordable units, 38 will be occupied by households from the old Deauville building.

Even if the residents are mostly the same, the building is radically changed, courtesy of a $19 million rebuilding. “It’s completely different,” says Romero-Latin, who has been living just down Mount Pleasant Street, the street where she’s spent 18 of her 19 years in the United States. “The old building, we were living there like animals, because nobody made anything good for us. This building is completely new.”

The burnt-out Deauville

The six-year process was assisted by a $4.137 million, 43-year loan from the D.C. government, funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s block grant program, to the tenant association to help buy the property and convert it into a 67-unit apartment building, and by the nonprofit National Housing Trust-Enterprise Preservation Corp., which helped secure the financing and undertook the renovation. Returning tenants decided to name the new building after Salvadoran human rights leader Oscar Romero.

Mayor Vince Gray and Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham will be on hand this afternoon to mark the occasion.

This post has been updated to clarify the source of the loan.

Romero photo courtesy of Enterprise; Deauville photo by Lydia DePillis